Mysterious cases of hepatitis in more countries: What parents need to know now

Last week, the British health authority UKHSA reported an unusual increase in hepatitis cases among children in the UK. In some cases, acute liver failure is said to have occurred. The mysterious disease is already appearing in other countries as well. What is hidden behind the sudden increase in the number of cases? And should parents worry? FOCUS Online answers the most important questions.

1. Which countries have been affected by hepatitis cases so far?

The British health authority UKHSA reported the first cases in the UK last week. According to the latest information from the EU health authority ECDC, it is now also in children

in mysterious diseases of hepatitis. There are now nine suspected cases in the U.S. state of Alabama.

2. What do countries monitor?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently reviewing 84 reported cases of hepatitis in children in the UK. However, the organization expects the number of cases to continue to increase in the coming days.

According to the current state of knowledge, above all children under ten years old affected, mainly in Age from two to five years. In the UK, some seriously ill children had to be transferred to specialized pediatric liver wards. According to the WHO, six of them had to have a new liver transplant.

As the ECDC reports, a questionnaire is currently being used to record the food and drink of the affected children in order to draw conclusions about a possible cause of the disease. Personal habits are also observed. However, so far, no common external factors have been identified.

3. Are there already cases in Germany?

The strange increase in the number of cases of hepatitis is causing irritation in this country as well. In Germany, however, no comparable cases are currently known, as reported by the German Association for the Medicine of Children and Adolescents (DGKJ) when asked by FOCUS Online. Just this week a quick survey was conducted in all specialized hepatitis centers in Germany. The situation so far has been inattentive. But we will continue to monitor the situation.

4. How does hepatitis appear?

Doctors understand that hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which can be caused by viruses, toxins, medications or autoimmune diseases. Depending on the cause and duration, different forms of hepatitis are distinguished. “Hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, is actually quite rare in children and is caused classically by known hepatitis viruses,” explains Burkhard Rodeck, a pediatric gastroenterologist and general secretary of the German Association for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. As reported by the British UKHSA, current cases of liver inflammation are not caused by common hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses.

To date, inflammation of the liver in children has been expressed with the following symptoms:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • yellowing of the skin (jaundice, jaundice)
  • diarrhea
  • stomach ache
  • exhaustion
  • loss of appetite

However, unlike normal hepatitis, most children do not have a fever. In addition, symptoms of the viral disease that initially caused it may appear – for example an upper respiratory tract infection.

5. What could be the cause of hepatitis cases?

Checking the history of disease cases is ongoing in all affected countries, the ECDC said. “The exact cause of hepatitis in these children is currently unknown.” This is mainly due to the fact that known pathogens of hepatitis A, B, C, D and E have not been detected in those affected. Therefore, British health authorities are examining links to other common pathogens such as the coronavirus, as well as other previous infections and environmental factors. According to the ECDC, infection is the most likely cause.

Dr. Rodeck also explains that in rare cases other viral diseases involving the liver can lead to hepatitis. “For example, those caused by cytomegaloviruses and Ebstein-Barr viruses, rarely adenoviruses, mainly in patients with immune diseases.”

The gastroenterologist sees a possible trigger in the increased relief after the coronary pandemic. Children and young people emerged from isolation in a relatively short time and were suddenly exposed to many microbes with which they had not come in contact before due to various blocking measures or other measures. Therefore, an infection with a pathogen may be a reason for the increasing number of hepatitis cases.

6. Is it related to Covid-19 or vaccination?

As the ECDC reports, cases of hepatitis have so far not been linked to a coronary vaccination. Some affected children tested positive for Sars-CoV-2 and others for adenovirus. However, none of the children had previously been vaccinated against Corona.

In addition, no clear link has been identified between reported cases and coronary infections or known trips, as reported by WHO and UKHSA. “A link to Sars-CoV-2 is theoretically imaginable, but not very reliable,” Rodeck explains. “All the children described underwent a Sars-CoV-2 examination. “This should be positive more often than not.” Such cases of hepatitis should have been noticed even earlier in the pandemic, says the doctor.

7. Should parents be worried?

The clinical picture of mysterious liver disease should be taken seriously in any case. Hepatitis is a severe acute inflammation of the liver with markedly elevated levels of transaminases – enzymes that perform metabolic tasks within cells.

Increased transaminases in children up to 16 years of age are often accompanied by jaundice, sometimes accompanied by symptoms such as vomiting. However, according to Rodeck, acute viral hepatitis in childhood is very often asymptomatic or causes only minor damage. As there are currently no known cases in Germany, parents need to stay calm. Under current status, excessive concern is not indicated. However, parents should consult their doctor if they have symptoms to clarify the exact cause of the disease.

8. How can I protect my child?

Common precautionary and hygienic measures also protect against hepatitis infection. The Head of Clinical and Emergency Infections of the UK Health Safety Authority, Meera Chand, advises regular hand washing and disinfection to reduce the spread of potential infections.

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