At least 169 children aged one month to 16 years-old have contracted cases of acute hepatitis in an outbreak spanning at least 11 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, which filters the blood, helps fight infections and processes nutrients.
At least one child is dead and 17 have required liver transplants from the disease. The majority of the cases, 114, were reported in the United Kingdom, while 13 were from Spain, 12 from Israel, nine in the USA, and a smaller number of cases in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium.
Most of the cases had no fever, nor any of the common viruses that typically cause acute viral hepatitis, such as adenoviruses, which cause hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
"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," said the WHO. "While adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent."
According to the Saturday statement, the clinical syndrome "among identified cases is acute hepatitis (liver inflammation) with markedly elevated liver enzymes," with many suffering gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting "preceding presentation with severe acute hepatitis" along with increased levels of liver enzimes or alanine aminotransaminase and jaundice.
- 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.
Most of the cases did not present with a fever, according to the WHO, which added that an investigation needs to focus on factors such as "increased susceptibility amongst young children following a lower level of circulation of adenovirus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential emergence of a novel adenovirus, as well as SARS-CoV-2 co-infection."
What else could be at play here?