348 cases of the mysterious hepatitis in the world. What do we know?

About 348 children worldwide have recently suffered from acute hepatitis of yet unknown origin. Belgium has 3 cases. The hypothesis of an adenovirus to explain this disease is favored, without certainty.

In the world, almost 348 young people children with acute inflammation of the liver not explained have already been listed. In Belgium, three cases are confirmed.

This is last April 5th that the United Kingdom had reported to increase the number of children suffering from symptoms of unknown origin. Since that date, the number of detected cases has increased.

Symptoms

This disease causes severe inflammation of the liver in children, normally little affected by this problem. Symptoms consist of abdominal pain, diarrhea, even jaundice (jaundice). Most patients do not have a fever.



Symptoms consist of abdominal pain, diarrhea and even jaundice.

The victims

This hepatitis affects children aged one month to 16 years, depending on the cases reported. Most patients are under the age of 10 e many are less than 5 years old.

They were in good health, with no comorbidities before they were affected. Most of them didn’t has not been vaccinated against covid.

Number of cases

348

Since the beginning of April, 348 children affected by the mysterious hepatitis have been registered worldwide. There is a case in Belgium.

WHO estimates there are about 348 cases worldwide. Another 70 suspected cases, identified in 13 countries, are waiting to be confirmed by tests. Only six countries have more than five cases, but the UK alone has reported 160 patients.

To the United States, health authorities said they were investigating 109 similar cases, including five deaths. Three children also died in Indonesia.

In Belgium, three children were diagnosed with this mysterious form of liver inflammation between February and April. According to Sciensano, they are all aged children between 1 month and 10 years. One of the three children, whose infection is the most recent, is currently stopped hospitalized. A second has never been hospitalized, the third child has already been discharged from the hospital.

Origin

“Currently, the exact cause of hepatitis remains unknown,” admits the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). No link with contaminated food, drink or toys has yet been identified. An infectious cause therefore appears to be considered the most likely.

The usual viruses that cause acute viral hepatitis (A to E) were not detected in any of the new cases.

Scientists are currently in favor of a adenovirus infection. Adenoviruses generally cause respiratory symptoms (bronchitis, pharyngitis, etc., and in some cases pneumonia), eye symptoms (conjunctivitis), and digestive disorders (gastroenteritis). Transmission occurs via the fecal-oral or respiratory route, often in communities (nurseries, schools). Most patients get infected before age 5.



It could be a new strain of adenovirus.

But their role in the development of this hepatitis is unclear. Adenoviruses were found in 74 sick children. 18 were carriers of adenovirus type 41. But the latter is not described as responsible for hepatitis in healthy children. And overall, young adenovirus infected patients who develop hepatitis are usually immunocompromised children; this is not the case with current patients.

Two avenues are being explored. It could be a new strain of adenovirus. Or other infections, or even environmental causes, could increase inflammation of adenoviral origin.

Ties to Covid

The possibility of a relationship with Covid-19 is one of the hypotheses, but the link would be indirect. Pandemic and imprisonment would have weakened the children’s immune systemswhich became more sensitive due to a lower level of adenovirus circulation during the covid period.

Co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 is also considered, but covid was not detected in all patients.

Prevention, treatment and drugs

Common preventive measures against adenovirus and other common infections involve regular hand washing and respiratory hygiene, recalls the WHO.

Some cases have caused liver failure and required kidney transplant. Many children have died.

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