SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization reported that at least one child had died as a result of an increase in acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children, and that at least 169 cases had been reported in children in 12 countries.
The WHO released the figures as health officials around the world investigate a mysterious rise in severe cases of hepatitis – liver inflammation – in young children.
According to the WHO, the majority of reported cases did not have a fever, and the common viruses that cause acute viral hepatitis, such as hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E, were not found in any of these cases.
Acute cases of unknown origin hepatitis had been reported in the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Israel, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania, and Belgium as of April 21.
According to the report, 114 of the 169 cases occurred in the United Kingdom alone.
The reported cases ranged in age from one month to 16 years, with 17 requiring liver transplantation, according to the report.
It provided no details about the death, which it claimed had been reported, and did not specify where it occurred.
According to the WHO, adenovirus, a common cold virus, was found in at least 74 of the cases. COVID-19 infection was found in 20 of those tested, and 19 cases had a COVID-19 and adenovirus co-infection, according to the report.
“It is not yet clear if there has been an increase in hepatitis cases, or an increase in awareness of hepatitis cases that occur at the expected rate but go undetected,” the WHO said in a statement.
“While adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent.”
The WHO stated that it was closely monitoring the situation and was collaborating with British health officials, other member states, and partners.
As part of a larger investigation into unexplained cases of severe liver inflammation in young children, U.S. health officials issued a nationwide alert warning doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms of pediatric hepatitis, possibly caused by a cold virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States issued a health advisory on Thursday, alerting health care providers and public health authorities to an investigation into acute cases of hepatitis with unknown causes.
When the cause of hepatitis in children is unknown, the CDC recommends adenovirus testing, adding that testing the blood as a whole, rather than just blood plasma, may be more sensitive.
Symptoms include dark urine, yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), sickness, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, light-colored stools, and joint pain.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis, but drugs such as steroids and medications to treat the symptoms can help.
Parents are being advised to be on the lookout for symptoms and to seek medical attention if they are concerned.
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