Doctors are investigating viral links to new hepatitis cases as 12 children have now died worldwide


At least 12 children worldwide, including one in Ireland, have died from a severe form of hepatitis that has baffled doctors.

This week it emerged that around half a dozen cases of severe hepatitis – an inflammation of the liver – had been diagnosed here, resulting in one death and another child requiring a liver transplant.

The latest report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) says there have been about 450 cases of the disease worldwide.

Ireland is among 20 countries where cases of hepatitis in children aged 1 to 12 have been detected, although parents are assured it is still very rare.

The United Kingdom accounts for 176 cases, of which 110 are in the United States.

Common hepatitis viruses have been ruled out as the cause and there are various theories, including the effect of the adenovirus, which is associated with the common cold. There is speculation that this adenovirus may have acquired unusual mutations, making it easier to catch and able to evade children’s immune defenses.

Ireland is awaiting more concrete evidence of what could be triggering the cases from the UK’s Health Security Agency and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, which are investigating the disease.

Children are tested more intensively for the adenovirus.

Parents are advised to seek medical attention if their child experiences symptoms such as light-colored stools, dark urine, or yellowing of the eyes and skin.

Covid-19 vaccines have been ruled out as a possible cause of the disease because they do not contain organisms that grow in the human body.

The HSE said “other possible causes such as another infection – including Covid-19 – or something in the environment are also being investigated”.

None of the Irish cases tested on admission to hospital had evidence of Covid-19 infection at the time.

“The majority of cases had not received a Covid-19 vaccination,” the HSE said.

At a press conference earlier this week, Professor Philippa Easterbrook of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Hepatitis Program said that at present “the leading hypotheses remain those involving an adenovirus, but I also think with an important consideration about the role of Covid as a well , either as co-infection or as past infection”.

Adenoviruses can cause a range of different diseases, from mild to severe, and one type has been identified as possibly linked to the hepatitis cases.

Further tests will be carried out to determine how many patients have tested positive for the adenovirus and how many are or have been infected with the coronavirus.

Prof Easterbrook said: “When you look at tissue samples and liver samples, none of them show any typical features that one might expect of liver infection due to adenovirus, but we are awaiting further examination of biopsies.”

She said a big focus for next week will be testing for prior exposure
and infections with Covid-19.

“We hope that within the week there will be data from the UK comparing whether the detection rate of adeno-
Virus in children with liver
Disease is different from that seen in other hospitalized children,” she said.

“This will help determine whether Adeno is an accidental infection or whether there is a causal or probable causal relationship.”

Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Center (HPSC) said other symptoms could include muscle and joint pain, high temperature, nausea and vomiting, a constant unusual feeling of tiredness, a general malaise, loss of appetite, abdominal pain or itchy skin.

Good respiratory and hand hygiene is recommended, including supervision of hand washing in young children. Doctors are investigating viral links to new hepatitis cases as 12 children have now died worldwide

Fry Electronics Team

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