Urgent warning after 13 more kids struck down with mystery hepatitis

AN urgent warning has been issued after 13 more kids were struck down with a mystery hepatitis of “unknown origin.”

Cases of the deadly liver disease nationally have now risen to 176 cases with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) probing a “small number” of suspected cases in children over 10.

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently believe there are 350 probable cases spread over 21 countries.

It comes after a confirmed fatality in Ireland took the global death toll from the disease to nine.

Five have also been reported in US, three and Indonesia and none in the UK so far.

In an update last week, the WHO also confirmed that at least 26 youngsters have required liver transplants following infection.

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It comes as experts fear that the current cases may be the tip of the iceberg due to poor surveillance in some countries.  

Scientists say it remains unclear what is behind the sudden spike in hepatitis with investigations into the underlying symptoms ongoing.

Infection by the usual hepatitis types A-E has already been ruled out as a potential cause.

But a common virus called adenovirus, which can cause stomach bugs, sore throats and ear infections, is being closely looked at.

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On Monday, the WHO said there had been 348 probable cases of hepatitis of unknown origin since the first was reported in Scotland in April.

All of the cases are among children aged 11 months to five years as many tested positive for adenovirus.

UKHSA said some of those who tested negative did not have a blood sample, which is the most reliable way to pick up an adenovirus bug.

However, as it is not common to see hepatitis following adenovirus infection in previously healthy children, investigations are looking into other factors which may be contributing, the UKHSA said.

These include previous Covid infection or a change in the adenovirus genome itself.

Previously, the UKHSA said the vast majority of cases are in those aged under five.

In a report dated May 6, it revealed the most common symptoms in kids when they came to hospital with hepatitis.

These were:

  1. Jaundice (71%)
  2. Vomiting (63%)
  3. Pale stools (50%)
  4. Diarrhoea (45%)
  5. Nausea (31%)
  6. Abdominal pain (42%)
  7. Lethargy (50%)
  8. Fever (31%)
  9. Respiratory symptoms (19%)

Early evidence suggests children with hepatitis have been infected with adenovirus type 41, which causes stomach problems.

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Prior to hepatitis, this type of adenovirus may cause:

  • Tummy pains
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea 
  • Diarrhoea

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