New warning to parents as mystery hepatitis outbreak spreads to 108 kids

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A MYSTERY hepatitis outbreak in children is growing in the UK, with 108 cases now detected.

Health officials have urged parents to keep a watch for signs of the condition, which includes dark urine and yellow skin.

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Parents have been urged to keep an eye out for signs of hepatitis in their kidsCredit: Alamy

The UK Health and Security Agency gave an update on Thursday morning.

It said 108 cases of hepatitis in children have been detected, up by 34 since their statement last Tuesday.

All children, aged 10 and under, fell sick between January and April 2022.

Eight have needed a liver transplant, which experts say is rare given that children rarely get severe hepatitis.

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Of the confirmed cases, 79 are in England, 14 are in Scotland and the remainder are in Wales and Northern Ireland.

There are more cases in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain – and the US.

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

Adenoviruses infect the tissue linings of the respiratory tract, eyes, intestines, urinary tract and nervous system.

Infections include the ear, common colds, pink eye and tonsillitis, causing symptoms including coughs, sore throats, diarrhoea and fever.

Children will have usually had at least one adenovirus infection before the age of ten, and sometimes will get “pool fever” – resulting in a combination of symptoms.

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.”

The Children’s Liver Disease Foundation – the only UK charity dedicated children with liver diseases – said: “Although the number of cases is small, it represents an increase in what we would expect to see and is distressing for those families involved.”

There are five main types of hepatitis caused by viruses known as A, B, C, D and E

But the UKHSA said there is no evidence the children are infected with hepatitis A to E, which are usually spread through blood.

However, as “it is not usual to see this pattern of disease from adenovirus”, the experts said.

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.

Dr Chaand urged parents 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. 

“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 Chaand said.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said children who had severe hepatitis were jaundiced and some had tummy pains, diarrhoea and vomiting in the weeks prior.

“Most cases did not have a fever”, the agency said.

The signs of hepatitis

As more cases of hepatitis have been identified, parents of young children have been urged to watch out for the key signs of the illness.

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
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Long-term hepatitis can also develop without any symptoms, until the liver fails completely, so it is sometimes only caught in blood tests.

It’s important to note that these ten symptoms might not always been down to hepatitis and that if your child has unusual symptoms then you should see your GP.



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