Hepatitis is a complete term to describe inflammation of the liver tissue. It is often caused by a viral infection – but also by certain chemicals, alcohol, drugs and certain genetic disorders.
How were these cases handled?
It triggered an investigation by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) which now looks at hospital admissions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from January.
It is now considering at least 111 cases of children under the age of 10, most of them under the age of five.
These included early symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea followed by yellowing of the skin or whitening of the eyes, called jaundice.
Of the confirmed cases, 81 live in England, 14 in Scotland, 11 in Wales and five in Northern Ireland.
Most conditions are mild, although 10 require a liver transplant.
Cases of children have also been detected in many other countries of the world – 169 in the latest count.
What could be the reason?
There are many different types of adenovirus. A special adenovirus called F41 was found in about three-quarters of children with confirmed hepatitis tested.
Health officials believe that due to the reduced social mix, the epidemic is likely to return after practically disappearing during the first year.
The effect on young children, who did not come in contact with any of the common viruses during the lockdown when they were infants, may be behind the current increase.
NHS lab data show that common viruses are now circulating in children, especially those under five, at higher levels than in previous years.
What else is found?
About 16% of hospital admissions were positive for coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), but since there were so many coyotes around at the time, health officials unexpectedly said that was not the case.
The most common forms of hepatitis – called A to E – are caused by a specific viral infection. However, these viruses have not been detected in these childhood cases.
The wide geographical spread of the cases means that there is no clear relationship between the children involved who reject contaminated food, for example.
Dr Mira Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at maybeUKHSA, said: “The information gathered through our research suggests that this increase in sudden onset hepatitis in children is linked to adenovirus infection.
“However, we are fully investigating other possible causes.”
Could it have anything to do with code vaccination?
No – none of the children were vaccinated.
Cod vaccines are only available in the UK from the age of five, meaning many children diagnosed with hepatitis will not be eligible.
What about self-infection?
The UKHSA says it is looking into possible causes of previous coccidial infections in infected children, as well as the possible emergence of a new strain of adenovirus.
It says it is investigating a wide range of other infections and causes.
What should parents take care of?
Parents, GPs and other healthcare professionals have been told that they have jaundice symptoms, yellow spots on the skin and other parts of the body, which are most easily seen in the whites of the eyes.
Other symptoms of hepatitis in children include:
- Deep urine
- Yellow, grey
- Itchy skin
- Muscle and joint pain
- A high temperature
- Feeling and being sick
- Feeling unusually tired all the time
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain