Hepatitis: Dr Hilary Jones outlines the main symptoms
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Cases of Hepatitis have now been reported in more than 10 countries around the world, with all four nations that make up the UK included in that group. The virus which causes liver inflammation is extremely rare and is affecting children who are mainly five-years-old or younger.
Where have Hepatitis cases been detected?
According to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) the UK is at the epicentre of the outbreak reporting 114 cases – correct as of Tuesday, April 26.
Of that number 10 have required a liver transplant due to the damage caused by the virus.
In England 81 cases have been confirmed, Scotland has recorded 14 while Wales and Northern Ireland have reported 11 and five cases respectively.
Since these were announced several days ago the WHO has detected three more UK cases.
Globally, 169 cases have been detected across 12 countries.
One child has died though their nationality and identity has not been revealed.
To date, Spain, Israel and the US are the only other countries to have reported more than 10 cases each.
Most of the children affected are five years old or younger and have had symptoms of gastroenteritis illness – diarrhoea and nausea.
These symptoms have been followed by jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes – an indicator that the liver is suffering.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) believes a strain of adenovirus called F41 is the most probable cause.
Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at UKHSA, said: “Information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this rise in sudden onset Hepatitis in children is linked to adenovirus infection.
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“However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.”
Other hypotheses being explored include children being more susceptible to the virus as a result of a lack of exposure to it during the pandemic.
While a prior infection to COVID or another illness, a co-infection with COVID or another illness and toxin, drug or environmental exposure are also being looked into.
Experts have stressed that while cases of Hepatitis can be serious most children who catch adenovirus will not become very unwell.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?
Dr Chand has said that parents and families should look out and seek medical advice for the following signs which could indicate the presence of Hepatitis:
- Feeling and being sick
- Feeling unusually tired all the time
- Loss of appetite
- Tummy pain
- Yellowing of the white part of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Pale, grey-coloured faeces (poo)
- Itchy skin
- Muscle and joint pain
- A high temperature
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