More and more countries are reporting mysterious cases of hepatitis in children

Experts wonder about dozens of cases of hepatitis in children in Europe and the United States. None of the previously known pathogens have been detected in affected individuals. Several causes are examined.

Cases of hepatitis in children of unknown origin, first reported in the UK, have now spread to other European countries. Such inflammation of the liver with an unknown trigger has now also been discovered in children in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, the European health authority ECDC announced on Tuesday. There are also nine suspected cases in the US state of Alabama.

The ECDC said the cases were still under review in all affected countries. “Currently, the exact cause of these children’s hepatitis is unknown.” Known pathogens of hepatitis A, B, C, D and E have not been detected in affected individuals. British health authorities are therefore examining links to other common pathogens such as the corona virus, previous infections and environmental factors. According to the ECDC, the most likely cause is currently an infection.

Six children need new livers

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was examining 84 cases of hepatitis in children reported in Britain since April 5. The WHO therefore expected more such cases in the following days, most of which involved children under the age of ten.

In most of these cases, the children did not develop a fever. Symptoms included abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and jaundice. Some of the liver infections in the UK were so severe that children had to be transferred to special liver units. According to WHO and ECDC, six children had to undergo a new liver transplant.

Expert advice on hygiene measures

The ECDC explained that in order to clarify the cause, a questionnaire was used to determine what foods and drinks people had consumed. Personal habits were also questioned. No external factors common to the diseases were found. According to the ECDC, there was also no link between the hepatitis cases and a corona vaccination.

The UK Health Safety Authority’s head of clinical and emerging infections, Meera Chand, on Friday advised “normal hygiene practices” as a precautionary measure. Precautions like washing your hands regularly could help “reduce the spread of many of the infections we are investigating,” she explained.

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