A Scottish child is one of six children to receive a liver transplant due to acute hepatitis. Scotland was the first country to report an outbreak of acute hepatitis in young children on 31 March, with 74 cases now reported across the UK. The most recent figures show that 13 of these cases are in Scotland, with 49 in England, and the remainder in Northern Ireland and Wales. NI’s Public Health Agency most recently reported that “fewer than five” cases had been identified, and Public Health Wales have not yet reported how many Welsh children have been diagnosed.
All 13 children in Scotland have been hospitalised, with one Scottish child receiving a liver transplant, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Six UK children with the disease have so far received liver transplants, and no deaths have been reported.
The WHO reported that a small number of cases have now been identified elsewhere in Europe: “Following the notification from the UK, less than five cases (confirmed or possible) have been reported in Ireland, further investigations into these are ongoing. Additionally, three confirmed cases of acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology have been reported in children (age range 22-month-old to 13-year-old) in Spain. The national authorities are currently investigating these cases.”
Mre recently, cases have been reported in the USA. On Good Friday, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announced that it had been investigating an increase in hepatitis cases in children since late 2021. To date, nine children less than 10 years old have been identified as positive for adenovirus and two have required liver transplants.
The recent outbreak involves cases in which none of the usual viruses which usually cause hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E) have been detected. A group of viruses called adenoviruses are one of a number of possible causes being investigated in the UK.
The UK Health Security Agency said: “Adenoviruses are a family of common viruses that usually cause a range of mild illnesses and most people recover without complications. They can cause a range of symptoms, including colds, vomiting and diarrhoea. While they don’t typically cause hepatitis, it is a known rare complication of the virus.
“Adenoviruses are commonly passed from person to person and by touching contaminated surfaces, as well as through the respiratory route. The most effective way to minimise the spread of adenoviruses is to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene and supervise thorough handwashing in younger children.”
COVID 19 is also being actively investigated as a potential cause, however health officials have ruled out a link to COVID 19 vaccination as none of the sick children has received a COVID 19 vaccine.
Hepatitis affects the liver and can cause jaundice. Parents have been asked to look out for the following symptoms and contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns.
Hepatitis symptoms include:
- 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