Hepatitis of unknown origin: first death, leads, number of cases… what does the latest WHO report say?

A wave of cases of hepatitis whose origin remains unknown and which affects children continues to intrigue the World Health Organization (WHO). This Saturday, April 23, a new report takes stock.

Are there increasing cases since the WHO’s first report of children with hepatitis of unknown origin in the UK dating back to April 15? Or since this alert, vigilance has increased, resulting in the emergence of more reports?

This is the question posed by the World Health Organization, which is releasing a new report on these mysterious conditions this Saturday, April 23.

How many cases and where are they listed?

As of April 21, the WHO notes that at least 169 cases of this hepatitis of unknown origin have been listed in the world. Most are reported in the United Kingdom (114 cases), where the first patients were listed.

Regarding France, two cases have also been confirmed by Public Health France. For the rest of the world, the WHO indicates that 13 cases have been reported in Spain, 12 in Israel, 9 in the United States, 6 in Denmark, less than 5 in Ireland, 4 in the Netherlands, 4 in Italy, 2 in Norway and 1 in Romania as well as 1 in Belgium.

“At least one death”

The patients are all under the age of sixteen according to the latest WHO point. Of the 169 reported cases, 17 required liver transplantation. “At least one death has been reported,” the report also notes, without giving further details.

The WHO is trying to provide food for thought on the possible origins of this hepatitis. It indicates that in at least 74 of the reported cases, adenovirus, a family of viruses very common in children was detected.

What assumptions?

However, these adenoviruses generally do not cause hepatitis. If the hypothesis of a link with vaccination against Covid could be ruled out, the WHO underlines on the other hand that “SARS-CoV-2 was identified in 20 cases among those tested. In addition, 19 were detected with co-infection by SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus”.

The WHO, which recognizes that the adenovirus can be a possible explanation for this hepatitis, underlines on the other hand that these viruses (there are 50 different ones) generally cause rather respiratory diseases.

Adenovirus 41 seems to be of particular interest to the WHO. It usually presents as diarrhea, vomiting and fever, often accompanied by respiratory symptoms,” the report details, which notes that while “case reports of hepatitis in immunocompromised children with adenovirus disease ” may have occurred, this is not known to cause hepatitis in healthy children.

A new adenovirus emerging because of the Covid?

Another track, raised by the WHO, that of the emergence of a new type of adenovirus. “Factors such as increased susceptibility in young children following a lower level of adenovirus circulation during the Covid-19 pandemicthe potential emergence of a new adenovirus, as well as co-infection with SARS-CoV-2, should be further investigated,” the WHO report said.

This theory should not exclude other “infectious and non-infectious” explanations, warns the WHO, which expects an increase in reports, due to the health vigilance launched for several days around these cases.

While waiting to learn more about these mysterious forms of hepatitis, the WHO recommends following standard hygiene measures.


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