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Mysterious Hepatitis Outbreak Continues To Baffle Doctors

by : Shola Lee on :
Mysterious Hepatitis Outbreak Continues To Baffle Doctors
Mysterious Hepatitis Outbreak Continues To Baffle Doctors (Alamy)

Investigations are underway as a mysterious hepatitis outbreak in children continues. 

This week it was reported that at least 12 children worldwide have died from a severe form of the disease.

Hepatitis is an inflammation in the liver and there are three different strains, all typically present in adults.

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Blood sample for hepatitis testing. Credit: Alamy
Blood sample for hepatitis testing. Credit: Alamy

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has reported 450 cases of the disease globally, with the UK accounting for 176 of those cases and the US for 110.

Among children, the majority of cases are in the US, with the country recording five deaths so far.

Ireland has also reported one case of hepatitis in a 12-year-old.

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The UK Health Security Executive (HSE) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating the outbreak.

Parents have been told to seek help if their children experience any symptoms of the disease, which include: fatigue; fever; loss of appetite; and nausea.

The disease is rare in children, which makes the current outbreak confusing. Credit: Alamy
The disease is rare in children, which makes the current outbreak confusing. Credit: Alamy

While it isn't clear how the cases started emerging in children, one theory speculates that it could have resulted from a mutation in the adenovirus, which is associated with the common cold.

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It is thought that a mutation in the virus could have weakened the children's immune defences and might be linked to the mysterious appearance of hepatitis in the youngsters.

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

"The majority of cases had not received Covid-19 vaccination."

Professor Philippa Easterbrook from the World Health Organisation weighed in on the discussion earlier this week, saying: "Leading hypotheses remain those which involve an adenovirus, but I think with also an important consideration about the role of Covid as well, either as a co-infection or as past infection."

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One theory is that the disease could be linked to being infected with Covid-19. Credit: Alamy
One theory is that the disease could be linked to being infected with Covid-19. Credit: Alamy

The professor went on to say: "Looking at tissue samples, liver samples, none of these show any of the typical features you might expect with a liver infection due to adenovirus, but we are awaiting further examinations of biopsies."

Investigations are set to continue in the coming weeks to explore the potential links between the rate of adenovirus and hepatitis in children.

"We are hopeful within the week there will be data from the UK comparing whether detection rate of adenovirus in children with liver disease differs from that in other hospitalised children," Easterbrook added.

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Shola Lee

Shola Lee began her journalism career while studying for her undergraduate degree at Queen Mary, University of London and Columbia University in New York. She has written for the Columbia Spectator, QM Global Bloggers, CUB Magazine, UniDays, and Warner Brothers' Wizarding World Digital. Recently, Shola took part in the 2021 BAFTA Crew and BBC New Creatives programme before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news, trending stories, and features.

Topics: News, Health, World News