Health. What you need to know about hepatitis of unknown origin affecting children in Europe

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage in the UK, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday reported cases of undetermined hepatitis in dozens of children in the country. . Here’s what you need to know.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can cause many health problems and even be fatal. According to the WHO, there are “five main strains of the hepatitis virus, called types A, B, C, D and E”. Types B and C strains are the most dangerous because they “lead to chronic diseases” that can cause cirrhosis or cancer.

What form of hepatitis has been detected in the UK?

The UK reported 10 cases of severe hepatitis in central Scotland to the WHO on April 5, before reporting a total of 74 three days later. Except that the usual hepatitis viruses (A to E) were not detected in affected patients after laboratory tests.

How many children were affected in total?

In addition to 74 cases identified on April 8 in the United Kingdom, fewer than five confirmed or possible cases have also been reported in Ireland, and three cases in Spain. But “more cases will probably be reported in the coming days”, warned the WHO on Friday.

This hepatitis of unknown origin mainly affects children under 10 years old. Across the Channel, some cases required transfer to a service specializing in liver disease and six children had to undergo a transplant.

What are the symptoms ?

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the British health safety agency, the hepatitis in question is manifested by dark urine, pale and gray stools, itchy skin, yellowing of the eyes and skin, muscle and joint pain, high temperature, abnormal fatigue, loss of appetite or stomach pain.

What could be its origin?

The British health security agency believes that a “group of viruses called adenoviruses” could be the cause of the cases of acute hepatitis identified. Especially since “the United Kingdom has recently observed an increase in the activity of adenoviruses, which co-circulate with SARS-CoV-2 [le virus du Covid-19, NDLR] “, observes the WHO.

Adenoviruses are common viruses that usually cause mild illness. “Although they do not usually cause hepatitis, this is a known rare complication of the virus,” UKHSA said in a statement. But “other possible causes are also being actively investigated,” the agency said, “including coronavirus” and “other infections or environmental causes.”

Any link has however been ruled out with the Covid vaccine, which has not been administered to any of the confirmed cases in the United Kingdom.

How to avoid it?

UKHSA’s Meera Chand points out that “normal hygiene measures” such as hand washing “help to reduce a lot of the infections we are investigating”. She calls on parents and caregivers to be alert to the signs of hepatitis and to “contact a healthcare professional if they are worried”.

For its part, the WHO is “monitoring the situation closely” and does not recommend any travel restrictions with the United Kingdom and other countries where cases have been identified.

Leave a Comment