(CMR) A mystery outbreak of hepatitis causing serious liver damage in children, first identified in the UK, has reportedly spread to the US and several EU countries.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday, asked physicians to be on the lookout for unusual cases of severe hepatitis in children.
More than 70 children under 10 have become sick with hepatitis, or liver inflammation, in the UK since January. They were all hospitalized. US officials have identified nine cases in children aged between 1 and 6 in Alabama, while there are new infections in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Spain.
Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver, resulting in diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Some of the children in Alabama developed jaundice, and blood tests showed signs of elevated liver enzymes.
Several children in that state became so ill that they needed a liver transplant.
The issue is now becoming a global concern as the cause of the outbreak is not known.
Infectious disease experts have reportedly said the outbreak is unusual because it is not linked to known viruses that cause hepatitis. Most of the children affected have no previous history of the disease.
Public health experts and virologists are investigating several possible causes, including a link to COVID infection – but a link to COVID-19 vaccines has been ruled out because none of the children affected in the UK had the jab.
US health officials said all nine cases in Alabama tested positive for adenovirus, with a possible link to one of the viruses of this family, adenovirus 41, which is associated with gut inflammation.
Some of the infected children in the UK tested positive for coronavirus, but others had adenovirus.
There are fewer than five possible cases in Ireland and three confirmed cases in Spain in children aged 22 months to 13 years.
A UKHSA spokesperson said: “One of a number of potential causes under investigation is that a group of viruses called adenoviruses may be causing the illnesses. However, other possible causes are also being investigated, including COVID-19, other infections or environmental causes.”
Parents are advised to be alert for symptoms of possible hepatitis, including jaundice, dark urine, itchy skin, muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite, and a high temperature.