One child dies in mysterious hepatitis outbreak as parents urged to be vigilant for signs

A CHILD has died in the mysterious hepatitis outbreak – with parents urged to watch out for warning signs.

Dozens of kids between one month and 16 years old have been struck down with liver inflammation in 12 countries.

It is not know where the youngster tragically died, with the World Health Organisation only confirming the death in a report on the puzzling outbreak.

As numbers have risen in recent weeks, there have been 17 children who have become so ill they need a liver transplant.

The UK has born the brunt of the cases so far, seeing 114 out of the global 169.

The US, Spain, Israel, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium have also seen infections.

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Cases have risen after the mystery illness was first reported, with experts feverishly trying to find out what has sparked it.

Currently scientists think the most likely cause is an adenovirus – common viruses that cause flu-like and gastro symptoms, and usually resolve without any lasting issues.

In kids they generally spark a mild illness, with liver inflammation (hepatitis) rare in healthy youngsters.

Traditionally the type of infections caused include the ear, common colds, pink eye and tonsillitis, with symptoms including coughs, sore throats, diarrhoea and fever.

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At least 74 of the children have been found to be infected with an adenovirus.

Around 20 had Covid, and 19 had both Covid and an adenovirus infection.

Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said there is increasing evidence the hepatitis is linked with adenovirus infection.

Other avenues are also being investigated, such as another infection including Covid, or an environmental cause.

But experts have ruled out the Covid vaccines as none of the affected children had received a jab.

Parents have been urged to help prevent the spread of viruses by supervising their children when washing their hands to make sure they are doing so thoroughly.

Respiratory hygiene includes encouraging children to catch their sneezes in a tissue or the crook of their elbow and coughing into their hand. 

Short-term hepatitis often has no noticeable symptoms, the NHS says.

But the 10 main hepatitis warning signs are:

  1. Dark urine
  2. Pale, grey-coloured poo
  3. Itchy skin
  4. Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  5. Muscle and joint pain
  6. A high temperature
  7. Feeling and being sick
  8. Feeling unusually tired all the time
  9. Loss of appetite
  10. Tummy pain

Dr Chand said: “We are working… to swiftly investigate a wide range of possible factors which may be causing children to be admitted to hospital with liver inflammation known as hepatitis.

“Information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this is linked to adenovirus infection. 

“However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.

“We are also calling on parents and guardians, to be alert to the signs of hepatitis (including jaundice) and to contact a healthcare professional if they are concerned.”

Dr Zania Stamataki, Associate Professor in Viral Immunology, Centre for Liver and Gastrointestinal Research, University of Birmingham, also said: “Most of the children with hepatitis have tested positive for adenovirus infection which is circulating now, however the liver inflammation may have been caused by a previous infection that has now cleared. 

"Sudden onset hepatitis may also be caused by a combination of insults to the liver, including viruses, toxins or drug treatments.

“The rising incidence of children with sudden onset hepatitis is unusual and worrying. 

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"If an adenovirus is to blame, this could be a new variant of adenovirus that may cause liver injury in children with naïve/immature immune systems."

A Public Health Scotland epidemiologist has suggested children could be reacting more severely to an adenovirus due to not being exposed to as many germs in lockdown.

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