‘Exceptionally’ worrying hepatitis outbreak ‘puts under 5s at greatest risk’

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LOCKDOWN may be to blame for a worrying spate of hepatitis cases in young children, experts claim.

One youngster has already died abroad, while ten British kids have needed a transplant as a result of the mysterious outbreak.

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Experts have said that coronavirus lockdowns may have contributed to a rise in hepatitis cases in young childrenCredit: EPA

In total 169 children have been diagnosed with hepatitis across 12 countries since last October, despite none testing positive for common strains of the virus.

There have been 114 cases reported in Britain since March alone – more than double a normal year’s worth.

Medics claim three-quarters of UK incidents are linked to adenoviruses, which normally cause colds, sore throats and eye infections.

But with many under-fives missing out on early exposure due to lockdown, experts fear they have now been left more susceptible to severe reactions.

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Another theory is that having Covid either previously or concurrently is playing a role, or an environmental factor such as a poison or drug is to blame.

There are also concerns a common adenovirus has mutated to become more severe.

Dr Meera Chand, infectious diseases boss at the UK Health Security Agency, says the outbreak was first identified in Scotland after a cluster of cases in late March.

Speaking at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon, she said: “Clinicians [in Scotland] realised we were seeing something unusual… they felt this was exceptional, something you would very rarely see in this age group.”

The hepatits symptoms you need to know

  • yellowing of the white part of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • dark urine
  • pale, grey-coloured faeces (poo)
  • itchy skin
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high temperature
  • feeling and being sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • tummy pain

She revealed the majority of UK kids have tested positive for an adenovirus, but none had received the Covid jab.

Dr Chand added: “So I think our leading hypothesis…would probably be that we have a normal adenovirus circulating.

“We may not have seen as much of it as we have for the past couple of years.

“But we have a co-factor affecting a particular age group of young children, which is either rendering that infection more severe or causing it to trigger some kind of an immunopathology.

“Co-factors include a lack of prior exposure of that particular age group during the formative stages they’ve gone through during the pandemic.

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“Alternatively, a prior infection with Covid or another infection.

“Or another co-factor could be a toxin drug or an environmental exposure interacting.”

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