mysterious hepatitis outbreak sickens young children in Europe

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported an outbreak of severe hepatitis of unknown origin in children across the United Kingdom.

READ ALSO: World Hepatitis Day: WHO calls for more awareness and testing

WHO disclosed that 74 cases have so far been recorded in Scotland and Ireland but Hepatitis viruses A, B, C, E, and D have been excluded after laboratory testing.

The global health body noted that three confirmed cases of acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology have also been reported in children between 22-month-old to 13-year-old in Spain

The WHO said the origin of the disease is still unknown, but the potential role of adenovirus or COVID-19 in the development of the cases is one of the hypotheses they are considering.

According to Health Line, a medical health portal, hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. It is commonly caused by a viral infection, but that there are other possible causes of hepatitis.

The site highlighted five main viral classifications of the disease to include hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, but stressed that different viruses are responsible for each of the viral hepatitis.

The WHO in its Disease Outbreak Report stated, “On 5 April 2022, the International Health Regulations, National Focal Point for the United Kingdom notified WHO of 10 cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology in previously healthy young children (age range: 11 months to five-year-old) across central Scotland.

“Of these 10 cases, nine had onset of symptoms in March 2022, while one case had an onset of symptoms in January 2022. Symptoms included jaundice, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain. All 10 cases were detected when hospitalised.

“As of 8 April, 2022, further investigations across the United Kingdom have identified a total of 74 cases (including the 10 cases) fulfilling the case definition.

“The clinical syndrome in identified cases is of acute hepatitis with markedly elevated liver enzymes, often with jaundice, sometimes preceded by gastrointestinal symptoms, in children principally up to 10 years old.

“Some cases have required transfer to specialist children’s liver units and six children have undergone liver transplantation.

“As of 11 April, no death has been reported among these cases and one epidemiologically linked case has been detected.

“Laboratory testing has excluded hepatitis type A, B, C, and E viruses (and D where applicable) in these cases, while severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and/or adenovirus have been detected in several cases.

“The United Kingdom has recently observed an increase in adenovirus activity, which is co-circulating with SARS-CoV-2, though the role of these viruses in the pathogenesis (mechanism by which disease develops) is not yet clear.

“No other epidemiological risk factors have been identified to date, including recent international travel. Overall, the aetiology of the current hepatitis cases is still considered unknown and remains under active investigation. Laboratory testing for additional infections, chemicals and toxins is underway for the identified cases.

“Following the notification from the UK, less than five cases (confirmed or possible) have been reported in Ireland, further investigations into these are ongoing.

“Additionally, three confirmed cases of acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology have been reported in children (age range 22-month-old to 13-year-old) in Spain. The national authorities are currently investigating these cases.

The UN health body, while assessing the situation said it is very likely that more cases will be detected before the aetiology of the disease is found, and that corresponding appropriate control and prevention measures have been taken.

The WHO, however, advised that it does not recommend any restriction on travel or trade with the United Kingdom, or any other country where cases are identified, based on the currently available information.



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