Still dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a alert on cases of fulminant hepatitis of unknown origin that reached children and teenagers mainly in the UK. Almost 15 days later, the entity follows up about 170 records in 11 countries and the strongest line of investigation is that the cases are related to andadenovirus episodeswhich causes gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.
Despite the suspicion, the entity opened the range of investigations and different causes are being investigated. “These are children who were healthy and had no previous cases of hepatitis. So, we are looking at infectious and non-infectious causes: food, toxic substances, medicines, environmental agents,” Philippa Easterbrook, a doctor at the WHO’s global HIV and hepatitis program, said in an online event on Thursday, 28.
She highlighted that the demonstration, which caused one death and led to 17 liver transplantsis not explained by the types of hepatitis – A, B, C, E and D (when applicable) – or other viral diseases.
Hepatitis is an inflammation that affects the liver and, in most episodes, is caused by a virus, but it can be related to the use of toxic substances, including drugs, alcohol consumption, hereditary diseases and autoimmune disorders. The main symptoms are jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting.
Leader of the WHO High Threat Pathogens team in Europe, where cases are concentrated, Richard Pebody reported that these episodes of fulminant hepatitis are not related to vaccination against Covid-19. “Most of the children have not been vaccinated.”
Although the entity investigates the relationship with adenovirus, Pebody recognizes that the situation is unusual, given that this group of viruses is not usually associated with hepatitis.
Asked about the possibility that the cases were caused by the lockdown adopted in some countries during the pandemic, which meant that children had no contact with other pathogens, the WHO expert did not establish the relationship. “It was a success to protect the population. There was a reduction in interactions that lead to contact with infections, such as influenza and the adenovirus itself, but with the return of activities, these cases rose again. One of our investigations is on the link with adenovirus.”
In a balance sheet released last Monday, 25, the WHO reported that there was notification of the mysterious disease in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Israel, United States, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium.
At the time, the entity said that the adenovirus was detected in at least 74 cases and, in 20, the SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, was present. The entity reported that there were 19 cases of SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus co-infection.