WHO investigates unusual cases of hepatitis in young children

WHO investigates unusual cases of hepatitis in young children

Several unusual cases of severe hepatitis in young children are being investigated, the cause or causes of which are currently unknown. Cases previously identified in Great Britain are now also found in the US (Alabama), Ireland and Spain.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are collaborating with the Department of Public Health to investigate nine cases of hepatitis in children aged 1 to 6 – who have tested positive for adenovirus – since October 2021. Usually adenoviruses affect the respiratory system, causing diseases such as colds. But they have also been linked to inflammation and infection of the bladder and, occasionally, hepatitis, although rarely in children who are not immunized. As in the British cases, investigations to date have found no links between exposed children in Alabama.

To the WHO: “Although some patients have tested positive for Sars-CoV-2 or adenovirus, genetic characterization of the virus is necessary to determine any association between cases”. And it “strongly” recommends states to “identify, investigate and report potential cases” but place no restrictions on travel to countries where these liver infections of unknown cause have been reported.

WHO – explains the agency’s European Regional Office – in central Scotland about 10 cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children under the age of 10 (11 months-5 years) were reported on 5 April . As of 8 April, 74 cases have been identified in the UK, including 10 Scots.

“Hepatitis A, B, C, E and D viruses have been excluded after laboratory tests, while further investigations are underway to understand their etiology – the WHO wrote in a note – reported in the last month. Considering the increase in cases and the strengthening of screening activities, it is likely that more cases will emerge in the next few days”, warned experts.

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