There are now 11 countries where a mysterious children’s hepatitis has spread
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an unknown severe strain of hepatitis has been recognized in nearly 170 children across 11 countries in current weeks, with at least one child dying of the frightening disease.
What we need to know about Hepatitis disease
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is swelling that happens when tissues of the body are injured or infected. It can damage your liver. This swelling and damage can affect how well your liver functions.
Hepatitis can be an acute (short-term) infection or a chronic (long-term) infection. Some types of hepatitis cause only acute infections. Other types can cause both acute and chronic infections.
What causes hepatitis?
There are different types of hepatitis, with different reasons that cause hepatitis:
- Viral hepatitis is the most common type. It is caused by one of several viruses — hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E. In the United States, A, B, and C are the most common.
- Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by heavy alcohol use.
- Toxic hepatitis can be caused by certain poisons, chemicals, medicines, or supplements
- Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic type in which your body’s immune system attacks your liver. The cause is not known, but genetics and your environment may play a role.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis?
Some people with hepatitis do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored faeces & bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice, yellowing of your skin and eyes
Where has Hepatitis been detected?
The first five cases were languished in Scotland on 31st March by “astute clinicians, realizing they were seeing something unusual”, said Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at the UK Health Security Agency.
The children did not have any of the five known hepatitis viruses, A, B, C, D and E, Chand told in an emergency demonstration at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases on Monday.
She said that such cases were very rare; the Scottish doctors generally see four to five unknown hepatitis cases in a year.
The WHO said in an update on the weekend that The United Kingdom has reported a total of 114 cases since then.
Spain had the following highest number of cases with 13, followed by Israel with 12 and the United States with nine, while small numbers of cases have also been listed in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium.
Who has it affected?
Generally, this disease has affected children aged from one month to 16 years old who have the mysterious disease called Hepatitis, but most cases have been aged under 10 – and many under five. The large plurality was formerly healthy.
They had indications that included jaundice, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain before the children showed signs of severe hepatitis.
Maria Buti, a pathologist in Barcelona and chair of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL), said the “main concern” is the strain’s severity.
She told AFP that seventeen 10 per cent of the 169 known cases had such severe hepatitis that they required a liver transplant, she told AFP.
Aikaterini Mougkou, who is an anti-microbial expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said the cases were “really worrying”.
She told the emergency presentation that it had not been clear whether even more children had mild cases because their signs were not traceable
“As we do not know the cause, we do not know the transmission route and how to prevent and treat it,” Mougkou said.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and is generally rare in healthy children. The experts said that no common disclosure looked like to link the patients and the WHO excluded multinational travel as a component.
Chand said that there was no link to paracetamol, overdoses of which can cause liver failure.
A new strain called Adenovirus
A strain of adenovirus called F41 is so far looking like the most probable cause, according to the U.K. Health Security Agency.
“Information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this rise in sudden onset hepatitis in children is linked to adenovirus infection. However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes,” Meera Chand, UKHSA’s director of clinical and emerging infections, said.
Chand said adenovirus was found in 75 percent of patients in the UK.
She said the “leading hypothesis” was a combination of a normal adenovirus along with another factor that was rendering it more terrible.
Adenovirus rates in the UK plunged during the early stages of the pandemic but have spiked far above previous levels since measures were lifted, Chand said.
An “unexpected increase” of adenovirus cases has been recently recorded in several other countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands, the WHO said.
“Adenovirus is a ubiquitous virus and it’s not seasonal. If this is a more severe form of adenovirus that causes liver disease in children, that’s very concerning. But right now it’s isolated enough and few enough cases not to jump to conclusions,” she told CNBC.
Adenovirus was the most common pathogen observed in 40 of 53 (75%) of confirmed cases tested in the U.K. Globally, the number was 74.
Covid (SARS-CoV-2) was observed in 20 cases of those tested globally. Adenovirus and Covid-19 co-infection was observed in 19 cases.
Edwards said that health authorities had been placed on alert and would be monitoring the situation.
Along with it, Parents and guardians should be alert to common signs of hepatitis, including jaundice, dark urine, itchy skin and stomach pain, and contact a health care professional if they are apprehensive.
“Normal hygiene measures such as thorough handwashing (including supervising children) and good thorough respiratory hygiene, help to reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus,” UKHSA’s Chand said.
“Children experiencing symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection including vomiting and diarrhoea should stay at home and not return to school or nursery until 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped,” she added.
First Case of Hepatitis in Japan
Japan has observed its first apparent cause of a dreadful liver disease that has so far affected over 170 children, largely in Britain, as health experts explore its possible links to Covid-19.
Japan’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday that a child had been hospitalized with an anonymous type of serious acute hepatitis or liver inflammation. It is believed to be the first noted case in Asia.
Of those infected, one child has died and 17 have needed liver transplants.
The WHO said it is “very likely more cases will be detected before the cause can be confirmed.”