Child dies in mysterious hepatitis outbreak as parents urged to know the signs

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PARENTS have been urged to look out for tummy troubles in their children after a mysterious spike in hepatitis cases.

Experts have been investigating the outbreak and said the majority of kids have experienced diarrhoea and nausea.

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Experts have urged parents to look out for signs of a tummy bug after a surge in hepatitis casesCredit: Getty – Contributor

This has been followed by yellowing of the skin (jaundice), with 114 cases having been identified across the UK.

Medics at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) say the pattern suggests the rise could be down to adenovirus infection.

The virus was confirmed in 75 per cent of the children who tested for hepatitis at the start of this year.

Around 16 per cent also had Covid, but this, they say, is to be expected due to the high levels of infection in the community at this time.

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Lab data shows cases of the virus are mostly circulating in kids aged 1-5.

Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said: “Parents and guardians should be alert to the signs of hepatitis (including jaundice) and to contact a healthcare professional if they are concerned.

“Normal hygiene measures such as thorough handwashing (including supervising children) and good thorough respiratory hygiene, help to reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus.

“Children experiencing symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection including vomiting and diarrhoea should stay at home and not return to school or nursery until 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.”

The update from the UKHSA comes after one child has died.

The child was not from the UK and the World Health Organisations (WHO) has not yet revealed where the child was based.

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

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 111 out of the global 169.

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

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

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 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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