UK: WHO investigates hepatitis of unknown origin in children

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was “monitoring the situation closely” on Friday, after cases of hepatitis in dozens of children in the United Kingdom, the origin of which remains to be determined.

The UK initially reported 10 cases of severe hepatitis in Scotland on April 5, before reporting a total of 74 three days later, according to a statement from the WHO, which expects further reports. in the next few days. This hepatitis mainly affects children under 10 years old, and is manifested by symptoms such as jaundice, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Some cases required transfer to a ward specializing in liver disease and six children had to undergo a transplant, the WHO said. Less than five confirmed or possible cases have also been reported in Ireland, and three cases in Spain, she continues. No deaths have been recorded.

The hypothesis of an adenovirus

Since the usual hepatitis viruses (A to E) have not been detected in affected children, the British health authorities have recently indicated that they are examining the hypothesis of a type of virus (adenovirus), as well as d other possible causes such as Covid-19, other infections or environmental factors. However, they ruled out any link with the Covid vaccine, which was not administered to any of the confirmed cases in the United Kingdom.

“Adenoviruses are transmitted from person to person or by touching contaminated surfaces, as well as by the respiratory route,” said the British health security agency (UKHSA). In a statement, UKHSA’s Meera Chand stressed that “normal hygiene measures” such as hand washing “help to reduce many infections” and called on parents and childcare providers to be alert for signs of hepatitis, and to “contact a healthcare professional if they are concerned”.

The WHO was reassuring on Friday, recalling that “no other epidemiological risk factor has been identified to date, in particular recent international travel” and does not recommend any travel restrictions with the UK and other countries where cases have been identified.

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