A World Health Organization (WHO) global alert has been issued after a mystery strain of severe hepatitis , which has been reported in 169 children in a dozen countries, has killed at least one child.
The WHO says most of the infections – 114 – are in the UK, followed by Spain, with 13 cases, and Israel with 12. The outbreak has also spread to the US, Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Norway, Romania and Belgium.
The WHO said on Saturday (23 April) that it is aware of 169 rare cases of acute hepatitis in children. Of these, 17 became so sick they needed liver transplants. It has encouraged all countries to monitor and report similar cases, reports The Guardian.
“Although the numbers arenʼt big, the consequences have been quite severe,” said Richard Pebody of the WHO European divisionʼs high threats pathogen team.
The cases are more unusual still because they are not linked to any of the five typical strains of the virus – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
While mild paediatric hepatitis is not unheard of, severe hepatitis in previously healthy children is rare. The latest cases have affected children aged from one month to 16 years old.
The WHO said a common cold virus known as an adenovirus had been detected in at least 74 cases. COVID-19 infection was identified in 20 of those tested and 19 cases were detected with a COVID-19 and adenovirus co-infection, it said.
Any link to COVID-19 vaccines has been ruled out, however, as most of the children who have got sick were unvaccinated, according to the organisation. But a possible explanation could be lowered immunity because of reduced social mixing during the pandemic.
Hepatitis symptoms include dark urine, yellowing of the eyes and skin, sickness, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, light-coloured stools and joint pain.
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