An urgent warning has been issued after 13 more children were stricken with a mysterious hepatitis of “unknown origin”.
National cases of the deadly liver disease have now risen to 176, with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) investigating a “small number” of suspected cases in children over the age of 10.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently thinks there are 350 possible cases across 21 countries.
It comes after a confirmed fatality in Ireland brought the global death toll from the disease to nine.
Five have also been reported in the US, three and Indonesia and none so far in the UK.
In an update last week, the WHO also confirmed that at least 26 young people have had a liver transplant after infection.
It’s because experts fear the current cases could be the tip of the iceberg due to poor surveillance in some countries.
Scientists say it remains unclear what’s behind the sudden spike in hepatitis, while investigations into the underlying symptoms are ongoing.
Infection by the usual hepatitis types AE has already been ruled out as a possible cause.
But a common virus called adenovirus, which can cause stomach ulcers, sore throats and ear infections, is being closely monitored.
On Monday, the WHO said there had been 348 possible cases of hepatitis of unknown origin since it was first reported in Scotland in April.
All cases are in children aged 11 months to five years, as many tested positive for adenovirus.
UKHSA said some of those who tested negative did not have a blood sample, which is the most reliable way to pick up an adenovirus bug.
However, because it’s not common to see hepatitis after an adenovirus infection in previously healthy children, research is underway into other factors that may contribute to it, the UKHSA said.
These include a previous Covid infection or a change in the adenovirus genome itself.
Earlier, the UKHSA said the vast majority of cases occur in those under the age of five.
In a May 6 report, it revealed the most common symptoms in children when they come to the hospital with hepatitis.
- Jaundice (71%)
- Vomiting (63%)
- Pale stools (50%)
- Diarrhea (45%)
- Nausea (31%)
- Abdominal pain (42%)
- Lethargy (50%)
- Fever (31%)
- Respiratory Symptoms (19%)
Early evidence suggests that children with hepatitis are infected with adenovirus type 41, which causes stomach problems.
Prior to hepatitis, this type of adenovirus can cause:
- Stomach ache