Mysterious hepatitis, what we really know about the virus that affects children and is frightening half of Europe

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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There are more and more cases of acute hepatitis whose origin is unknown in children reported in Europe. From England to Denmark, passing through Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, there are infections that are beginning to alarm

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It would mainly affect i children under the age of 10 and often even in severe form: little and nothing is known about the strange cases of hepatitis which are increasing in Europe, but also in the United States.

This was reported by the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ecdc, which, following reports of acute hepatitis cases of unknown origin by the United Kingdom Health Safety Agency, reports further cases in children in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain and 9 other cases of acute hepatitis among children aged 1 to 6 in Alabama in the United States.

Investigations are underway in all countries that have reported cases, writes the ECDC in a note.

In fact, what remains a terrible constant for now is that at the moment the exact cause of this type of hepatitis in these children remains unknown and the ECDC therefore claims to be working with teams in each of the countries reporting cases, along with WHO and other partners to support ongoing investigations.

Adding up the reports from the authorities of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are over 70 cases. No link to the covid-19 vaccine has been identified, the ECDC explains.

What is known so far

On April 5, the UK reported an increase in cases of acute hepatitis of unknown etiology among previously healthy children under the age of 10 from Scotland. On 12 April, the UK reported that in addition to the cases in Scotland there were around 61 additional cases under investigation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with most of these cases between the ages of 2 and 5. On 14 April, Scotland reported that of the 13 investigated cases, two case pairs were epidemiologically linked.

Cases in the UK presented clinically with severe acute hepatitis, with elevated levels of liver enzymes (aspartate transaminase (AST) or alanine aminotransaminase (ALT) above 500 IU / L) and many cases were jaundiced. Some of the cases reported gastrointestinal symptoms, including:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea and vomiting in the previous weeks

Most of the cases did not have a fever. Some of the cases required treatment in specialized pediatric liver wards and some had even undergone liver transplantation.

In this context, the scholars have not identified any links to the Covid-19 vaccine and detailed information gathered through a case questionnaire on food, drink and personal habits failed to identify any common exposures.

The toxicological investigations are underway but an infectious etiology is considered more probable given the epidemiological picture and the clinical characteristics of the cases, write from the ECDC.

Laboratory investigations of cases ruled out viral hepatitis types A, B, C, D and E in all cases. Of the 13 reported cases from Scotland for which detailed test information is available, three were positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, five tested negative and two had an infection in the three months prior to presentation. Eleven of these 13 cases had results for the adenovirus test and five were positive.

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Source: ECDC

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