A mysterious outbreak of hepatitis has caused one death and 17 children needing liver transplants globally… And it seems like it’s starting to spread outside of the US and Europe.
Here’s everything that is known about it, including how to spot the symptoms.
Most children will experience abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, and jaundice, where the skin or whites of the eyes turn yellow.
Other symptoms also include fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine, light-coloured stools, and joint pain. Most of the children infected did not have a fever.
Laboratory tests would also show signs of severe liver inflammation, with very high liver enzyme readings.
How Many Children Infected, And Where?
The first cases were from the US, when five children were admitted to an Alabama hospital in October 2021 with liver damage. It was an unknown cause at the time.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) was alerted to another ten cases in Scotland on 5 April. On 8 April, 74 cases were identified in Britain.
Since then, there has been a total of 169 cases, with the others detected in Europe.
However, Japan’s health ministry found one possible case on 25 April, raising alarms that the disease is spreading outside of Europe and the US.
And if it continues spreading, it might even reach our tiny island.
What Causes the Disease?
Unfortunately, the cause is still unknown.
Health authorities and experts are still investigating the cause, though they’ve found that adenoviruses may be a possible trigger. 74 of the children were infected with adenoviruses.
Reader Bao: Uh, what are adenoviruses?
Adenoviruses are common viruses that result in a range of illnesses with common cold-like symptoms. There are more than 50 types of such viruses that can cause infections, and the symptoms range from respiratory ones to gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis and bladder infections.
These viruses have been on the rise recently as the COVID-19 pandemic started easing up, which may explain the sudden rise in hepatitis cases.
Adenoviruses usually resolve on their own and are known to mostly cause mild infections, which is why researchers were surprised that they can cause such severe diseases as hepatitis.
The WHO hypothesized that severe hepatitis is a rare result of an adenovirus infection that is detected more often now, thanks to enhanced testing over the years.
However, they are still doing additional testing for other infections, chemicals and toxins. Better to find more possibilities than to fixate on just adenoviruses, right?
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Featured Image: shutterstock / George Rudy
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