Child hepatitis cases up to almost 200, say public health officials

‘It’s important that parents know the likelihood of their child developing hepatitis is extremely low’ says UKHSA

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Friday 20 May 2022 19:23 BST
11 children with hepititis have had liver transplants
11 children with hepititis have had liver transplants (AFP via Getty Images)
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Almost 200 cases of sudden onset hepatitis in children have now been identified in the UK, up by 34 since the beginning of the month.

As of 16 May, 197 cases have been identified, with 11 needing a liver transplant, according to an update by the UK Health Security Agency on Friday.

According to the briefing, 170 of the cases have been tested for adenovirus - the suspected likely cause of the virus - with 116 testing positive for it. In 31 cases, adenovirus was not detected, while with 13 it was not possible to rule the virus out.

Previous briefings from the public health authority have indicated a suspected link between adenovirus and the cases of sudden severe hepatitis in children, which is being investigated. Adenoviruses are common viruses that typically cause mild cold- or flu-like illness.

Across the cases identified, Covid has been found in 15 per cent, following testing on or near to admission.

The UKHSA said there is no evidence of any links to the Covid vaccine and that the majority of cases are under five years told, so are too young to have received a jab.

It added: “Following further investigation, there is no evidence linking dog ownership and cases of hepatitis in children.”

Jaundice and vomiting are the most common symptoms experienced by the children affected, according to experts.

Dr Renu Bindra, senior medical advisor at UKHSA, said: “It’s important that parents know the likelihood of their child developing hepatitis is extremely low. However, we continue to remind everyone to be alert to the signs of hepatitis – particularly jaundice, look for a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes – and contact your doctor if you are concerned.

“Our investigations continue to suggest that there is an association with adenovirus infection, but investigations continue to unpick the exact reason for the rise in cases.”

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