At least 111 cases of sudden hepatitis have been identified in children in the UK, with doctors revealing amid “growing” evidence that the problem is linked to adenovirus.
The UK’s Health Protection Agency said it could not rule out other possible causes, such as Covid, which it is also investigating, but that an adenovirus has been identified in 40 of the 53 cases tested so far.
In Britain, cases have reached 81 in England, 14 in Scotland, 11 in Wales and five in Northern Ireland, most of whom are patients under the age of five.
No child deaths have been confirmed in Britain, the World Health Organization said, adding that there have been 169 cases globally with at least one child who died of the disease.
So far eleven children have needed a “super urgent” liver transplant within the past three months because of the virus.
This represents an increase in the need for transplants in the UK, where liver transplants usually occur in children under 80 each year.
Adenoviruses are a family of common viruses that cause mild illnesses such as colds, vomiting, and diarrhea. They are common in children and do not usually cause hepatitis but can be some type of rare complication.
Officials are investigating whether there is a cofactor affecting young children that is making common adenovirus infections more severe or triggering a specific immune response. This includes decreased exposure to the virus, increased susceptibility due to a past or current COVID infection.
Of the cases, 16 per cent children had tested positive for Covid-19 from January to April. However, it was during the period when the spread was high, experts have indicated. No link has been identified for COVID vaccines and no child under the age of 10 has been vaccinated.
Experts are investigating any individual medical conditions that may be linked, although none have yet been identified.
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said: “The information gathered through our investigation increasingly suggests that this increase in sudden-onset hepatitis in children is associated with adenovirus infection. However, We are thoroughly investigating other possible causes.
“Parents and guardians should be alert for symptoms of hepatitis (including jaundice) and contact a health care professional if they are concerned. General hygiene measures such as thorough hand washing (including child care) And good respiratory hygiene helps reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus. Children experiencing symptoms of gastrointestinal infections such as vomiting and diarrhea should stay home and for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped. Should not return to school or nursery.
Symptoms of hepatitis include yellowing of the whites of the eyes or skin (jaundice), dark urine, yellow, brown stools, itchy skin, muscle and joint pain, high temperature, feeling and being sick, unusual appearance including feeling tired. time, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.