Mysterious hepatitis cases in children: What we know so far
New Delhi, May 22: Cases of hepatitis of unknown origin, first detected in UK children has now spread at least 34 countries for which doctors have no explanation.
As of May 18, at least 175 children in the UK and 180 in the United States have become sick since October 2021, notably they are below five years of age.
What is hepatitis found in children?
According to WHO, the clinical syndrome among identified cases is acute hepatitis (liver inflammation) with markedly elevated liver enzymes. Many cases reported gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting preceding presentation with severe acute hepatitis, and increased levels of liver enzymes (aspartate transaminase (AST) or alanine aminotransaminase (ALT) greater the 500 IU/L) and jaundice. Most cases did not have a fever.
The common viruses that cause acute viral hepatitis (hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E) have not been detected in any of these cases. International travel or links to other countries based on the currently available information have not been identified as factors.
How severe are these cases?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 90% of affected children have been hospitalized. Most have recovered, but at least five died. while, more than two dozen children have needed liver transplants, globally.
Hepatitis in children symptoms
The most common symptoms of hepatitis in children is dark urine, light stool, vomiting, and jaundice.
Is there a Covid link?
Health experts have ruled out a link between the hepatitis cases and COVID vaccines, as most of the affected children were too young to receive the shots. Further laboratory tests are being conducted to look more closely at the virus genome and other potential pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2.
Because some of the COVID vaccines used adenoviruses, some people on social media wondered if the vaccines were the cause of the outbreak. However, none of the cases reported in the UK had received a COVID vaccine and the COVID vaccines that do use adenoviruses use an unrelated virus that cannot multiply.
More investigations are need to assertain anything on the issue.
It's important to note that severe hepatitis in children remains rare. However, parents and caregivers are encouraged to be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis - particularly jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or eyes - and to contact their child's healthcare provider with any concern.