Hepatitis in children: symptoms of liver disease in UK outbreak

More than 200 children have been diagnosed with the disease in the UK – and at least one child has died worldwide

Parents are warned to watch for symptoms of hepatitis afterwards health Experts said they are investigating more than 200 cases of the condition children in the UK – and at least one child has died worldwide.

A further 25 cases of hepatitis have been confirmed in children under the age of 10, the UK Health Agency (UKHSA) said.

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This brings the total number of cases across the UK to 222 as of Wednesday 25 May.

Of the confirmed cases of sudden onset hepatitis, 158 are in England, 31 in Scotland, 17 in Wales and 16 in Northern Ireland, the UKHSA said.

Cases occur mainly in children under the age of five who show initial symptoms of gastroenteritis (diarrhea and nausea) followed by jaundice.

Health officials now say it’s increasingly likely that a virus that causes flu-like symptoms, known as adenovirus, could be the cause, with eight children having received liver transplants as a result.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all seen increases in cases since January.

There are different types of illnesscausing the liver to become inflamed.

Here’s what you need to know about hepatitis, how to recognize the symptoms, and everything we know about the new cases so far.

What is hepatitis and what causes the disease?

Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the liver and can affect people of all ages.

In children it is usually caused by a viral infection, but in adults it can also be the result of liver damage from alcohol consumption.

Itchy skin is one of the symptoms of hepatitis (NationalWorld/Mark Hall)

There are different types of hepatitis.

Some types go without serious problems, while others can be long-lasting and cause scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis and loss of liver function and in some cases liver cancer.

Hepatitis in children can occur for a number of reasons, including common viral infections.

It is not known what type of hepatitis is associated with the new cases being investigated.

But health officials say the viruses that often cause the disease have not been detected in affected children.

For more information on the different types of hepatitis, see NHS website.

What details are known about the new cases being investigated in the UK?

The UKHSA is investigating whether previous Covid infection was behind the surge but said there was “no evidence” the condition was linked to Covid vaccinations.

Scientists had also looked at a link between the hepatitis cases and dogs, but ruled it out last week.

A more likely culprit is adenovirus, a common virus that causes infection.

dr Renu Bindra, the UKHSA’s incident director, said parents should be “alert” for the symptoms of hepatitis.

dr Bindra said: “Our research continues to suggest an adenovirus link and we are looking at that link along with other possible factors, including previous infections such as Covid.

“We are working with other countries that are also seeing new cases to share information and learn more about these infections.

“We continue to remind everyone to be vigilant for signs of hepatitis, particularly jaundice – look out for a yellow cast in the whites of the eyes and contact your doctor if you are concerned.”

What is known about the cases being investigated in the rest of the world?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also confirmed that several cases of childhood hepatitis are being investigated in the rest of the world.

In a statement released on April 23, WHO said at least 169 cases of acute hepatitis of unknown cause had been reported from 11 countries, including 13 in Spain, 12 in Israel, nine in the United States of America, six in Denmark, four in the Netherlands, four in Italy, two in Norway, two in France, one in Romania and one in Belgium.

The children are between one month and 16 years old. Seventeen children worldwide have received liver transplants, including those in the UK, and at least one death has been reported.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

Hepatitis symptoms include:

  • dark urine
  • light grey-colored feces
  • itchy skin
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high temperature
  • feel and be sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach pain

Symptoms of the disease can initially look like symptoms of other health problems.

If you are worried about your child, please contact your family doctor.

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales you can contact the NHS 111 for advice.

What have health experts said about the rise in cases in the UK?

Health professionals are asking parents to be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis.

Doctor Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, said: “We are working with the NHS and public health colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to rapidly investigate a wide range of possible factors that can lead to children being infected being hospitalized with inflammation of the liver known as hepatitis.

“The information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this is related to adenovirus infection. However, we are thoroughly investigating other possible causes.

“Normal hygiene practices such as thorough handwashing (including supervision of children) and good, thorough respiratory hygiene help reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus.

“We also urge parents and guardians to watch for signs of hepatitis (including jaundice) and to contact a doctor if they have concerns.”

How is hepatitis treated?

Treatment for a child with hepatitis depends on what type they have, what caused the disease, what their symptoms are, and how severe the disease is.

The purpose of any treatment is to stop or prevent further liver damage and relieve symptoms.

People of all ages with hepatitis can be given appropriate medication to treat the virus and relieve symptoms such as itching.

They may also have blood tests to determine how severe their case of the disease is and if it is progressing.

In the most severe cases, a patient may need to stay in the hospital while being treated, and if the liver has been severely damaged and is no longer working properly, a liver transplant may need to be done.

How do I get a hepatitis vaccination for my child?

A hepatitis vaccine can protect babies, children and adults from hepatitis B, one of the most common types of virus.

It is recommended by the NHS that all babies are vaccinated against hepatitis B.

A 6-in-1 vaccineoffered to all babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age includes a hepatitis B vaccine.

If you need a hepatitis vaccination as an adult, you can speak to your family doctor.

The hepatitis B vaccine is very effective, and about 9 out of 10 adults who have it will develop protection against hepatitis B NHS data published in 2021.

Vaccination against hepatitis A is available but not routinely offered in the UK as the risk of contracting this type of disease is low for most people.

Hepatitis A vaccination is only recommended for people at high risk. For more information, see NHS website.

https://www.nationalworld.com/health/hepatitis-children-signs-symptoms-liver-disease-uk-outbreak-cause-3645741 Hepatitis in children: symptoms of liver disease in UK outbreak


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: hung@interreviewed.com.

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