Hepatitis in children: Nearly 200 cases as it is now detected in Japan and Canada

Scientists are urgently looking into what is causing the global outbreak, with public health officials in the UK saying lockdown could be a factor.

Around 190 unexplained cases have now been detected in 12 countries worldwide, now including Japan and Canada.

The case in Japan of the liver inflammation disease was flagged by local authorities on April 21 in a child who had tested negative for adenovirus – a possible cause being investigated worldwide – and Covid.

The patient had not had a liver transplant, the health ministry said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Public Health Agency said on Tuesday it was investigating reports of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin in young children.

It did not reveal the number of cases or their location.

So far the UK has reported 114 cases of severe, acute hepatitis “of unknown origin” in children under the age of 10.

A further 11 other countries have also reported cases including Ireland, the US, Israel, the Netherlands and Romania – and now Japan and Canada.

One child has died worldwide and around 10 per cent of those affected have required a liver transplant.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) addressed the global outbreak in a media briefing on Tuesday.

Professor Philippa Easterbrook, a senior scientist at the WHO, said: “The causes of the cases remains under active investigation, looking at a rane of possible underlying factors.”

The cases do not feature the viruses typically responsible for acute liver inflammation – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, the professor said.

Profesor Easterbrook said there was a possible link to adenovirus, a common infection found in children.

Adenovirus has been detected in around 74 of the hepatitis cases that have been tested, she told reporters.

She added: “It is unusual for an adnovirus to cause this type of severe symptoms and so this is what is being actively investigated at the moment.”

On whether the outbreak could have been caused by lockdowns, she said: “I think this is very much a hypothesis and I think we need to systematically work through this with planned investigations and a number of countries looking at this in much more detail.

“So I think it is an interesting assessment of the data but it really needs to be followed up with more investigations.”

Any link with the Covid vaccine has been ruled out, public health officials have said.


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