UK child hepatitis outbreak has “no link” to COVID vaccine

child hepatitis outbreak, adenovirus
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Health authorities find that there is no link between the COVID vaccine and the ongoing child hepatitis outbreak, which continues to spread across the UK

On 5 April, the UK identified some mysterious cases of child hepatitis. There were initially ten cases identified in ordinarily healthy young children, between the ages of 11 months to five years old. These cases were identified and hospitalised.

This number has risen to 108 cases, as of 21 April.

Similar cases of child hepatitis have been found in the US state of Alabama, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Israel.

What effect does hepatitis have on the body?

Hepatitis targets the liver, causing inflammation. Since the liver processes nutrients, filters blood and fights infections, these crucial functions can be affected by any damage to the organ.

Hepatitis can also be caused by heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions. In most cases, the sickness is caused by a virus. There are multiple forms of hepatitis, all of which are transmitted in different ways.

In children, extreme side effects may include liver failure, liver cancer or death. The most important thing to do in a suspected case of child hepatitis is to get immediate medical intervention.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis in children?

According to The University of Rochester Medical Center:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Not feeling well
  • Stomach pain or discomfort
  • Diarrhoea
  • Joint pain
  • Sore muscles
  • Itchy red hives on the skin
  • Clay-coloured stools
  • Dark-coloured urine

However, children may exhibit no symptoms at all – similarly to how some people who are asymptomatic for COVID.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), symptoms in child hepatitis cases found so far are commonly jaundice, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Child hepatitis outbreak currently has no source, but scientists suspect adenovirus as cause

Healthcare experts are investigating the cause of this child hepatitis outbreak, which appears to have no exact source of infection.

Normally, hepatitis can be caused by a variety of viruses: from hepatitis viruses, to Epstein-Barr, to chickenpox. This time, scientists have detected none of those.

Narrowing that down, scientists believe that adenovirus may be responsible – the virus that causes colds, tonsillitis, diarrhoea and ear infections in children. Right now, 77% of cases tested positive for adenovirus.

Health authorities are also looking to see if adenovirus mutated, or if there is any connection with a positive COVID diagnosis.

Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “We are working swiftly with the NHS and public health colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to investigate a wide range of possible factors which may be causing children to be admitted to hospital with liver inflammation known as hepatitis.

“One of the possible causes that we are investigating is that this is linked to adenovirus infection. However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.”


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