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At This Hour

CDC Investigates 100+ Mysterious Hepatitis Cases In Children; Ukraine Military Official Says Russian Forces Kidnapped His Son; Violent Clashes Erupt At Funeral For Slain Al Jazeera Journalist. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 13, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Now to a disturbing medical mystery, the CDC is investigating a hepatitis outbreak among children. More than 100 severe cases in 25 states with unknown causes and five children have died. One of the cases being investigated now is a two-year-old who required a liver transplant as a result of her infection. You see her there. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this exclusive report.



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The first thing Kelsea Schwab wanted to show me was that her two-year-old daughter, Baelyn, had always been fiercely independent.

SCHWAB: Baelyn is Baelyn. She just kind of took serum drum and does her own thing.

GUPTA: But on April 22, everything changed and a true medical mystery began.

SCHWAB: We woke up and she had hives all over her body so I took her to the doctor and they did give her epinephrine and then sent us over to the ER to be monitored. Everything was fine. She went home. The next day, we woke up and I was like her eyes were a little bit yellow, yes.

GUPTA: She wasn't acting any different?

SCHWAB: No. And her eyes were just a little bit yellow. Just a little bit of jaundice. A couple of hours later, we got a call back saying you need to get to the hospital now and we're going to fly you there. Over the next couple of days, Baelyn's numbers didn't improve. Normal liver numbers are in the 30s. I think at one point it was 70,000.

GUPTA: Dr. Heli Bhatt is a pediatric hematologist. That's a doctor who specializes in the liver. She was one of the first doctors to treat Baelyn after she was airlifted to the University of Minnesota's Masonic Children's Hospital. In your career, have you seen something like this before?

DR. HELI BHATT, PEDIATRIC HEPATOLOGIST, M HEALTH FAIRVIEW MASONIC CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: No. I think we -- I have definitely seen multiple cases of acute hepatitis and active liver failure, but the fact that there are so many in such less time to have not seen an outbreak like this in my career.

GUPTA: What happened to Baelyn is extremely rare. But at least 109 times over the past few months, it's been the same story, a relatively healthy child whose eyes start to turn yellow, loses their appetite, and within days, their liver is severely inflamed. According to the CDC, at least 98 children in this hepatitis outbreak had been hospitalized, 15 had liver transplants, five have died, and there is no clear explanation why.

BHATT: What is striking about this is the number of cases in the period of time and kind of all over the world and also following this huge pandemic.

GUPTA: Do you draw a connection then between the pandemic and what is happening with these kids' hepatitis?

BHATT: One of the things that I question is did these kids ever have COVID? You know, kids can go asymptomatic with COVID, but then have all these inflammatory side effects.

GUPTA: Should that be part of the diagnostic testing? Should these kids be getting tested for their antibodies to COVID?

BHATT: I do think that is something we should be testing so that we can -- we can know whether it is related to that or not.

GUPTA: Baelyn did have COVID But for many others, we don't know. For now, the CDC isn't currently recommending testing for COVID antibodies in these children and instead focusing on adenovirus, a virus that is usually linked to the common cold, and more than half the children have tested positive for it. Doctor Bhatt isn't so sure because while Baelyn did test positive for adenovirus in her blood, there wasn't any evidence of it in her liver.

BHATT: So this is adenoviral staining. This is a control and this is Baelyn's liver, so it did not stain at all.

GUPTA: But you weren't seeing it in her liver.

SCHWAB: In her liver, yes. She would start shaking and she would, you know, had a hard time sitting up and like she couldn't hold her head up. And just like watching her go through that was like this is not my kid.

GUPTA: Even though her doctor struggled to understand how this all happened, it was clear what needed to be done to save her a transplant. And within two weeks of Baelyn first breaking out in hives, remarkably, she had a donor, a 16-year-old who was a match.

SCHWAB: My happiest day of their saddest day and that's been one of the biggest struggles for us, I guess is trying to come to terms with like tragedy is going to happen whether we need to live or not.

GUPTA: Simply fitting the lobes from a 16-year-old's liver into Baelyn was a challenge but the seven-hour operation a success.

How quickly did her numbers after the transplant return to normal? Does it happen immediately?


BHATT: Yes, it happens within days. So within hours, two days --

GUPTA: How is Baelyn doing now?

SCHWAB: She's playing with playdough and starting to talk a little bit more, and she's asking him for food and asking him for juice. So we're slowly getting back to Baelyn, but I'm not very patient.


GUPTA: So, Kate, I mean, this is a medical mystery. There is no known definitive cause. There are some things that investigators are able to start ruling out, like the COVID vaccine, for example, the median age of these kids is two so there was no vaccine that was available to them.

And even when moms were pregnant with these children, that was too early, there was no vaccines authorized at that time so that's something investigators can take off the list but again, they don't know what's causing this even if they do know what's not. And I should point out as well, Kate, some 450 similar stories to the one I just told you have been happening all over the globe. So this isn't just happening in the United States, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Sanjay, thank you so much for bringing this up. What a sweet baby girl. Best to her family in a long road ahead. Coming up for us, a Ukrainian military official and his plea for help, he says that his teenage son, you see there, was abducted by Russian forces more than a month ago. His story, next.



BOLDUAN: Back to the war in Ukraine now. In an international crisis and, of course, a humanitarian one as well, the world has seen almost countless examples now of civilians being killed, tortured, and also taken by the Russians. One heart-wrenching example of this now is 16- year-old Vlad Buriak.

His family has not seen him for more than a month as they say that he was abducted by Russian forces as he was trying to evacuate to safety from Melitopol in southern Ukraine. His father is a top military official in Zaporizhzhia and he's going public with this story now in an effort to try and bring his son home.

Joining me now is Vlad's father, Oleg Buriak. You believe that Vlad is the only child who has been abducted from your region in this conflict. Why was he taken, Oleg? Is it because of who you are and because of your official position?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he was taken it was by accident. Vlad was in the vehicle, in the back of the vehicle.

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he was in -- at the checkpoint in Vasylivka, this was the last checkpoint in that area. He was -- the car was being checked and Vlad was looking at his phone, and the people in his car said these are children that just looking at their phones. And he got into some arguments with the military so as a result, he was taking a filtration room.

And when they were checking their -- his documents, they found out whose son he was. He was -- the whole car -- the people in the car would question for three hours and they were threatening to hold the other people in the vehicle, the other women, the children -- other children so they had to leave him behind and he was taken into a remand cell and since then, he's been in detention.

BOLDUAN: Do you know how he's doing now?

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I last spoke to him on the 7th of May. His -- he phoned my mobile phone.

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mentally, I think he's in despair.

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to understand that he speaks on a speakerphone and everything that he says is heard.

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language,

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he says he's not been physically harmed but there are certain things I know in addition and people who have seen him have told me so I know what conditions he's being held. I don't want to hurt his situation. I don't want to speak publicly about that yet.

BOLDUAN: Have they laid out any demands to get him home? Have they -- any options of getting him home?

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language.

[11:45:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am negotiating. The next day after his detention, I was invited to negotiate. They want a certain person whom I cannot name and I cannot offer this person because I can't find him.

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this -- I also know that this person that they want to exchange is, actually supports the Ukrainian position and he doesn't want to go to Russia so I cannot physically exchange him. Unfortunately, I cannot go into a lot of detail about that.

BOLDUAN: Oleg, before you go, I just have to ask you with everything, your responsibilities to your country, your responsibilities to your family, and everything you've seen in this war so far already, are you hopeful that you will see your son brought home alive to you?

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm definitely going to see him. I will do everything I can to get my son back. If my son can hear me now, I'm not going to leave you behind son.

BURIAK: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will get him back.

BOLDUAN: I can see the pain in your face, the pain of any parent in a horrible situation that you are in. Oleg, thank you so much for coming on. Oleg, thank you. We'll continue to follow his story. Coming up for us. Violence erupts at the funeral of the Al Jazeera journalist killed in the West Bank, a live report from Jerusalem next.



BOLDUAN: There are new developments now on the death of a journalist that we have been tracking. Violent clashes, take a look at this, broke out today at the funeral for the Palestinian-American journalist who was shot and killed in the West Bank this week. Israeli police, using tear gas and batons on the crowd as they were carrying her coffin.

CNN's Atika Shubert is live in Jerusalem with more on this. And, Atika, you were there this morning. You saw this play out. What happened?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this started at the St. Joseph Hospital where her body was being prepared for the funeral. Mourners and her family wanted to have a walking funeral procession where they would carry their -- the coffin on their shoulders to the church but Israeli police had already said they would not allow that. That it could only be transported by car. So it's really riot police lined up actually just outside of the hospital grounds, outside of the gate.

When the family and mourners tried to move forward with the coffin on their shoulders, Israeli police initially blocked them and then charged moving forwards into the hospital grounds. This is when we saw Israeli riot police using their batons to hit at some of the pallbearers. And the coffin nearly falls from their shoulders to the floor. It was a completely chaotic situation. Stung grenades were used to disperse the crowds at all. It was very tense.

Now, the Israeli police maintain that they were trying to allow the funeral procession to go ahead in a safe manner, but they may say that there are rocks and stones were being thrown at them. Now, I was there, I did not personally see any stones or rocks being thrown at them.

Certainly, there were plastic bottles and other projectiles like plastic flags that were thrown at the police but I did not see any stones. The funeral procession was able to go ahead with a car and it did -- it did end peacefully. But at the beginning was very chaotic, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, it was. Atika, thank you so much for being there and for that update. I appreciate it. Something else that we are tracking at this hour, shares of Twitter are down sharply right now. You can see down more than 8 percent after Elon Musk says his takeover deal of the social media company is on hold. Musk noting and announcing that that concern is about the number of fake accounts that are on the platform. Let me bring CNN's Brian Stelter for more on this. Brian, what is going on here?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It seems this is all about money even though Musk says he wants to review the deal because of concerns about spam or fake accounts on Twitter. He tweeted out before dawn, saying that the deal is on hold while he looks into this. He links to an 11-day-old Reuter's article about the existence of bots on the -- on the site. He says he needs to review that but he still is committed to the transaction.

I think we should be incredibly skeptical of this. The markets have been tanking in recent days, Elon Musk is not as valuable as he was before and Tesla stock is declining. Tesla stock was the main way he was securing the financing for Twitter, so as Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien said his pockets are feeling lighter now he may need a way out of this deal. But with Elon Musk, you never know for sure. So we'll see what he does.

BOLDUAN: I mean, I guess we will. What happens if this deal falls through?

STELTER: Well, there is no other obvious buyer for Twitter. The board of directors looked for other bidders back when Musk made the offer and couldn't find anybody. So it's either Musk or nobody right now.


STELTER: But as Twitter's stock slides along with the rest of the market, Twitter will be in a precarious position. It's already lost talents and top executives leaving, and others looking for the exits as a result of all the drama involving Elon Musk. So maybe the company will stay public, maybe it'll stay as a publicly-traded company and it'll just continue to tweet on through it but right now, Musk was, you know, talking about all the changes he was going to make. So everything is up in limbo up in the year for now.

BOLDUAN: It seems to be par for the course with Elon Musk. It does seem.

STELTER: It seems.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Brian. Thank you for that.

STELTER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And thank you all so much for being with us AT THIS HOUR. I'm Kate Bolduan. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts after the break.