THE World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Friday, 15, to monitor “closely” the emergence of cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children. 74 have already been identified and have been investigated since January by the Health Security Agency of the United Kingdom (UKHSA). The WHO does not recommend travel restrictions to countries with cases and emphasizes that the priority is to identify the cause of the infection.
Viral hepatitis are infections that affect the liver, most of the time they are silent. There may be symptoms such as tiredness, fever, malaise, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, yellow skin and eyes (jaundice).
According to the WHO, in the cases of the United Kingdom, laboratory tests ruled out the hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses. The picture of European children is of acute infection. Many have jaundice, which is sometimes preceded by gastrointestinal symptoms, especially in children up to 10 years of age. Some of the patients needed to be transferred to specialized infant liver units and six needed a transplant. No deaths were recorded as of April 11.
After the UK alert, Ireland and Spain also reported confirmed and suspected cases, according to the WHO. Authorities in these countries investigate.
Among the UK cases, many were infected with adenovirus (a family of common viruses that usually cause mild illness) or with the virus that causes Covid-19, the WHO said. Recently, there has been an increase in the activity of adenoviruses in the region, which co-circulate with SARS-CoV-2. As much as they are investigated as potential causes, the role of these viruses in pathogenesis (mechanism by which the disease develops) is still unclear.
No other epidemiological risk factors were identified, including recent international travel. The UKHSA reported that there was no link to the vaccine against covid – none of the confirmed cases received immunization.
“Conventional hygiene measures, such as good handwashing and respiratory hygiene, help to reduce the spread of many of the infections we are investigating,” said Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at the UKHSA, in a statement. She urged parents and guardians to watch out for signs of hepatitis and contact concerned healthcare professionals.
According to the WHO, as there has been an increasing trend in cases since last month in the UK, in addition to an extensive search, it is likely that more confirmations will occur before the etiology (cause) is identified. The organization encouraged countries to identify, investigate and report potential cases.