Dogs or acetaminophen could be the cause of a mysterious outbreak of hepatitis in children, experts warn

Having a dog or taking acetaminophen could trigger mysterious cases of hepatitis in children, health chiefs have warned.

Official data show that 163 children in the UK have contracted the disease, 11 of whom will require a liver transplant.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and is usually caused by hepatitis virus A, B, C, D, or E


Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and is usually caused by hepatitis virus A, B, C, D, or EPhoto credit: Getty

No children have died from the disease in the UK and there are now thought to be over 250 cases worldwide.

Medical professionals have now warned that cases of the disease are more common in households with dogs.

In 92 cases in the UK, 64 positives involved children from families who owned or were exposed to dogs, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Medical professionals are now investigating this link but suggest it may be due to high levels of dog ownership in the UK.

It was also found that three quarters of respondents had mentioned using paracetamol.

Fewer reported ibuprofen use and none reported aspirin use.

The prevalence of paracetamol use is considered consistent with guidelines for treating acute illness in children, the experts said.

Investigations into the condition included interviews with parents and questionnaires sent to affected families.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization announced that 230 children worldwide have the disease.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and is usually caused by hepatitis virus A, B, C, D, or E.

None of the children in the UK have tested positive for these strains and none are believed to be immunocompromised.

British health officials said the chances of a child contracting hepatitis remain “extremely small” but parents should be aware of the symptoms.

The main signs to look out for are:

  • yellowing of the whites of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • dark urine
  • light-colored, gray-colored feces (poo)
  • itchy skin
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high temperature
  • feel and be sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach pain

dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at UKHSA, said parents still need to look out for the key signs.

“Especially if you have jaundice, look for a yellow tinge in the whites of your eyes — and contact your doctor if you’re concerned.

“Our research continues to suggest that there is an association with adenovirus, and our studies are now rigorously testing that association.

“We are also studying other contributors, including earlier SARS-COV-2, and are working closely with the NHS and academic partners to understand the mechanism of liver damage in affected children.”

Medics said investigation into the cause was still ongoing and that adenovirus was the most commonly detected virus in the samples tested.

However, they stressed that it is not common for this to cause hepatitis.

Adenoviruses are often spread through close personal contact, respiratory droplets, and surfaces.

There are more than 50 types of adenoviruses that most commonly cause the common cold.

But early evidence suggests that children with hepatitis were infected with adenovirus type 41, which causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.

This occurs before signs of liver inflammation, which may include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

The most common signs of the virus are:

  • Cold and Flu Symptoms
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • bronchitis
  • lung infection
  • conjunctivitis
  • Stomach problems such as nausea and diarrhea.

Severe illness is less common with the viruses, but people with compromised immune systems or existing respiratory or heart conditions are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms.

Less common signs include bladder infections or problems affecting the brain or spinal cord.

Hepatitis is a rare side effect.

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Hygiene is important when it comes to adenorviruses as they are spread through close personal contact such as touching.

Just like Covid, they can also be spread through coughing and sneezing and by touching surfaces with adenoviruses.

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