The World Health Organization Warns Of An Increase In Cases Of Acute Pediatric Hepatitis Around The World
In recent weeks, more than 21 countries have reported an increase in cases of acute severe hepatitis in children of unknown origin. As of the date of this article, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed at least 348 cases of severe child hepatitis worldwide. The first 10 cases were detected on April 5th of this year in the United Kingdom. A week later, additional cases were reported in England, Ireland, Spain, Israel, the United States, and several Latin American countries. It should be noted that the ages of the affected minors ranged from eleven months to 16 years of age.
To date, 348 probable cases of severe hepatitis of unknown etiology have been reported in previously healthy young children. Unfortunately, 26 children have needed a liver transplant. So far, one death has been reported from a liver defect.
Pan American Health Organization
The information available is very limited, and no exact cause of this serious increase in hepatitis has been identified. However, in 75% of the confirmed cases, an adenovirus infection was found. Specifically, the presence of adenovirus F41. Adenoviruses F41 are one of the most common causes of viral gastroenteritis in children. As a result, experts report that the hepatitis outbreak may be a complication of this disease.
What Are Adenoviruses?
Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that usually cause respiratory diseases (bronchitis, pharyngitis), ocular diseases (conjunctivitis), or digestive problems (gastroenteritis). Most people can get any of these viral infections before the age of five.
Health Authorities Confirm The First Few Cases of Acute Severe Hepatitis in Children in Mexico
Four suspected cases of children hepatitis have been detected in Mexico. Dr. Alma Rosa Marroquín, spokesperson for the Health Department of Nuevo León, reported that on May 12, they found four suspicious cases: “So far, everyone is stable. They are children of different ages. They are being extensively monitored to assess each situation and be able to share more complete information,” she said
What Is Hepatitis And What Are The Types Of Hepatitis?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, hepatitis is an infection that causes inflammation and liver damage. However, when this inflammation occurs quickly and abruptly, it becomes acute hepatitis. There are different types of viruses that cause hepatitis, including hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A and E viruses usually cause acute infections. Hepatitis B, C, and D viruses can cause both acute and chronic infections.
|Type of Hepatitis||Type of Infection||Transmission||Treatment|
|Hepatitis A||Acute||It is transmitted through contact with the feces of an infected person or by drinking untreated water.||It usually resolves itself after a few weeks, no treatment necessary. You can protect yourself with the hepatitis A vaccine.|
|Hepatitis B||Acute or chronic||It is transmitted through contact with the blood, semen, or other body fluids of an infected person.||You can protect yourself with the hepatits B vaccine.|
|Hepatitis C||Acute or chronic||It is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.||Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent liver damage.|
|Hepatitis D||A serious infection occurs if you already have chronic hepatitis B and then become infected with hepatitis D.||It is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.||You can protect yourself with the hepatits B vaccine. If you do not get hepatitis B, you cannot get infected with hepatitis D.|
|Hepatitis E||Acute||Some types of hepatitis E viruses are transmitted by drinking water contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Other types are transmitted by eating undercooked pork or wild game meat.||It usually resolves itself after a few weeks, no treatment necessary.|
What Does The Hepatitis B Vaccine Do?
The hepatitis B vaccine has been available since the eighties. It is recommended for newborns, children, and adolescents. According to PAHO data, this vaccine offers 95-100% protection against hepatitis B. In addition to preventing a hepatitis B infection, this vaccine prevents the development and complications of chronic diseases and liver cancer.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hepatitis in Children? Is There Treatment?
Acute severe hepatitis in children has different gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting. In addition, muscle pain and fever may also occur. Nonetheless, the most common symptom of this infection is the yellow coloration of the skin and eyes, known as jaundice. Treatment for acute hepatitis seeks to relieve symptoms, as well as manage and stabilize patients if there are complications. However, there are no specific treatment recommendations. Therefore, treatment for hepatitis in children will depend on the origin and cause of the infection.
Likewise, the World Health Organization warns parents about the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Liver inflammation
- Diarrhea, vomiting, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Elevated liver enzyme levels
Covid-19 And Its Connection To Severe Hepatitis in Children
According to the most current information, the majority of the affected children did not receive the Covid-19 vaccine. As a result, some of the confirmed cases of acute hepatitis detected the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, PAHO is studying the situation, and so far this relationship remains a hypothesis.
Prevention Measures Against Childhood Hepatitis, According To The General Epidemiology Directorate
Different health institutions recommend that parents be aware of the severe childhood hepatitis symptoms, especially the yellowing of the skin and eyes. The National Committee for Epidemiological Surveillance (CONAVE) made available a series of sanitary measures as a response to these cases of severe acute hepatitis:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol gel solution.
- Wash your hands before and after preparing food, after going to the bathroom, and after changing a diaper.
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing; preferably use a tissue and throw it in the trash.
- Avoid sharing food, drinks, cutlery, and dishes.
- Clean and disinfect toys and objects that children can put in their mouths frequently.
- Make sure the water you consume is drinkable.
- Use drinking water to ensure hygienic food handling.
- Complete the basic immunization schedule according to the children’s ages.
- Properly handles fecal waste and urine.