Investigations underway into 'higher than normal' cases of childhood hepatitis
Thursday, April 7, 2022
Parents are being warned to look out for symptoms of hepatitis in their children after an unusual spike in the number of cases among those under the age of 10.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has launched an investigation into the cause of hepatitis in 60 children. An investigation is also underway in Scotland where there have been 11 cases in children aged between one and five.
Hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver and can occur for a number of reasons including several viral infections in children. However, the UKHSA states that in the cases under investigation, the common viruses that can cause the liver condition have not been detected.
The UKHSA is working with the NHS and public health colleagues across the UK to investigate the potential cause.
Meanwhile, Public Health Scotland is investigating the cases of hepatitis in children who have been admitted to hospitals in Lanarkshire, Glasgow, Tayside and Fife, mostly since March. The children have contracted a rare non-A to E type of the disease.
According to Public Health Scotland (PHS), normally there are around seven or eight childhood cases of hepatitis per year in the country which do not have an underlying diagnosis.
PHS said there was no connection between the cases yet, however stated that the ‘number of cases identified in such a short period of time, combined with the geographical spread and severity of illness, in some cases, was unusual and required further investigation.’
Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at the UKHSA, said, ‘Investigations for a wide range of potential causes are underway, including any possible links to infectious diseases.
‘We are working with partners to raise awareness among healthcare professionals, so that any further children who may be affected can be identified early and the appropriate tests carried out. This will also help us to build a better picture of what may be causing the cases.
‘We are also reminding parents to be aware of the symptoms of jaundice – including skin with a yellow tinge which is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes – and to contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns.’
The symptoms of hepatitis include:
- dark urine
- pale, grey-coloured poo
- itchy skin
- yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- muscle and joint pain
- a high temperature
- feeling and being sick
- feeling unusually tired all the time
- loss of appetite
- tummy pain