Cases of childhood acute hepatitis of unknown origin initially reported in the UK continue to rise, with at least 169 cases confirmed in 11 countries, including one fatality, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, in publishing recommendations to deal with this new health alert.
Most cases have been reported in Europe, except for nine confirmed cases in the United States and 12 in Israel. The UK has reported the highest number of cases (114), followed by Spain (13), the WHO said in a statement.
The Geneva-based organization says 17 of the affected children (about one in 10) required liver transplants after contracting the disease, which typically causes abdominal pain,diarrhea or vomiting and which, according to the WHOcould be caused by an adenovirus, possibly type 41.
WHO records first child death from acute hepatitis of unknown origin
The international health agency said it is not yet clear if there has been an increase in cases or if this is a normal trend that has gone undetected until present, although the organization has expressed concern that an adenovirusnormally associated with mild respiratory conditions, may cause acute inflammation of the liver.
The first 10 cases of this acute hepatitis were reported by the UK to the WHO on April 5, in previously healthy children under the age of 10.
He recommends preventive measures such as frequent hand washing.
The age of affected children currently ranges from one month to 16 years, most of them do not have a fever. On the other hand, the normal viruses associated with these diseases were not found in any of them. (hepatitis A, B, C, D and E), said the WHO. Adenoviruses were detected in 74 of the cases (including 18 specifically with adenovirus 41, rarely linked to cases of hepatitis in the past)and in about 20 patients, children also tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.
Faced with this abnormal increase in cases of hepatitis of unknown origin, WHO calls on the health networks that have identified cases, but also on other countries to continue investigations and take preventive measures.
She recommends measures already known during the coronavirus pandemic (frequent hand washing, cough covering, etc.) and blood, serum, urine, and fecal testing of affected individuals to analyze and sequence any causative viruses.
The WHO is not recommending restrictive measures on entry and exit from the UK or other affected countries, as it has not yet identified international travel as being linked to the proliferation of cases.