Increase In Hepatitis (Liver Inflammation) Cases In Children Under Investigation - 12 May 2022
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The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), working with Public Health Scotland, Public Health Wales and the Public Health Agency, are continuing to investigate cases of sudden onset hepatitis in children aged 10 and under that have been identified since January 2022.
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 (diarrhoea and nausea) followed by the onset of jaundice.
Active case finding investigations have identified a further 13 confirmed cases since the last update on 6 May, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 176, as of 10 May. Of the confirmed cases, 128 are resident in England, 26 are in Scotland, 13 are in Wales and 9 are in Northern Ireland. No children have died. As part of the investigation, a small number of children over the age of 10 are also being investigated.
UKHSA continues to investigate possible causes and will regularly publish technical updates. The investigation continues to suggest an association with adenovirus. Adenovirus is the most frequently detected virus in samples tested and a formal epidemiological study is continuing. Research studies of the immune system are also being undertaken to determine if changes in susceptibility or the effect of prior or concurrent infections could be contributing factors.
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. 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 working closely with the NHS and academic partners to actively investigate the role of other contributors, including prior SARS-CoV-2 and other infections."