Increase In Hepatitis (Liver Inflammation) Cases In Children Under Investigation - 6 May 2022
image / pixabay
The UK Heath Security Agency (UKHSA) has published its second detailed technical briefing on the UK-wide investigations into a rise in cases of sudden onset hepatitis in children, updating data and findings on cases resident in the UK up to 3 May 2022.
Since the last update on 29 April, active case finding investigations have identified a further 18 confirmed cases, bringing the total number of UK cases to 163 as of 3 May. Of these children, 11 have received a liver transplant. None have died.
Jaundice and vomiting are the most common symptoms experienced by the children affected.
The investigation continues to suggest an association with adenovirus. Adenovirus is the most frequently detected virus in samples tested.
However, as it is not common to see hepatitis following adenovirus infection in previously well children, investigations are continuing into other factors which may be contributing. These include previous SARS-CoV-2 or another infection, a change in susceptibility possibly due to reduced exposure during the pandemic, or a change in the adenovirus genome itself.
These possibilities are being tested rapidly. The association with adenovirus is undergoing a formal epidemiological study.
Research studies of the immune system are being undertaken to determine if changes in susceptibility or the effect of prior infections could be contributing factors.
There is no evidence of any link to the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. The majority of cases are under 5 years old, and are too young to have received the vaccine.
Normal hygiene measures, including thorough handwashing and making sure children wash their hands properly, help to reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus.
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said:
"It’s important that parents know the likelihood of their child developing hepatitis is extremely low. However, we continue to remind everyone to be alert to the signs of hepatitis – particularly jaundice, look for a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes – and contact your doctor if you are concerned.
"Our investigations continue to suggest that there is an association with adenovirus and our studies are now testing this association rigorously.
"We are also investigating other contributors, including prior SARS-CoV-2, and are working closely with the NHS and academic partners to understand the mechanism of liver injury in affected children."