In a follow-up on the cases of sudden onset hepatitis in children aged 10 and under in the United Kingdom, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported a further 34 confirmed cases since the last update, bringing the total number of cases to 145. Of the confirmed cases, 108 are resident in England, 17 are in Scotland, 11 are in Wales and 9 are in Northern Ireland.
Of these cases, 10 children have received a liver transplant. No children have died. As part of the investigation, a small number of children over the age of 10 are also being investigated.
Findings continue to suggest that the rise in sudden onset hepatitis in children may be linked to adenovirus infection, but other causes are still being actively investigated.
As it is not typical to see this pattern of symptoms from adenovirus, they are investigating other possible contributing factors, such as another infection – including coronavirus (COVID-19) – or an environmental cause.
The usual viruses that cause infectious hepatitis (hepatitis A to E) have not been detected. The cases are predominantly in children under 5 years old who showed initial symptoms of gastroenteritis illness (diarrhea and nausea) followed by the onset of jaundice.
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said:
We know that this may be a concerning time for parents of young children. The likelihood of your child developing hepatitis is extremely low. However, we continue to remind parents to be alert to the signs of hepatitis – particularly jaundice, which is easiest to spot as a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes – and contact your doctor if you are concerned.
Normal hygiene measures, including thorough handwashing and making sure children wash their hands properly, help to reduce the spread of many common infections.
As always, children experiencing symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea should stay at home and not return to school or nursery until 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.