Health experts are investigating the likely cause of a new childhood liver disease, which was first reported in the UK in January 2022, and whether it has any link with coronavirus or not.
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Japan has detected its first likely case of a mysterious liver disease that has affected more than 170 children, mostly in the UK, as medical experts explore the possible link of the virus. it with Covid-19.
Japan’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday that a child had been hospitalized with an unspecified severe acute hepatitis – or hepatitis – believed to be the first reported case in Asia.
As of April 23, at least 169 cases have been detected in 11 countries globally, according to World Health Organization. The majority of that came in the UK (114), followed by Spain (13), Israel (12) and the US (9). Japan’s addition marks the 12th country to identify a case.
Of those infected, one child died and 17 required a liver transplant.
The WHO said it “most likely will have more cases detected before the cause is confirmed.”
Children aged five and under are by far the most widely affected by the disease, although cases have been detected in children between one month and 16 years of age.
Common symptoms include gastroenteritis – diarrhea and nausea – followed by jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Health experts are now investigating the likely cause of the outbreak, which was first reported in the UK in January 2022, and whether it has any link to the coronavirus.
Specifically, they are probing whether it could be related to a lack of prior exposure to common viruses known as adenoviruses during the coronavirus restrictions, or to a previous Covid-19 infection. are not. In addition, the genetic makeup of hepatitis may have been mutated, leading to more reactivated hepatitis.
Importantly, experts say there is no known link to the Covid-19 vaccine.
Often, children are exposed – and immune – to adenovirus and other common diseases during their childhood years. However, pandemic restrictions have largely limited that early exposure.
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According to the UK Health Security Agency, a strain of adenovirus known as F41 is considered the most likely cause.
“The information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that an increase in sudden-onset hepatitis in children is associated with adenovirus infection. However, we are thoroughly investigating the possible causes. other potential causes”. Meera Chand, UKHSA’s Director of Clinical and Emerging Infectious Diseases said.
Adenovirus was the most common pathogen detected in 40 of the 53 (75%) confirmed cases tested globally in the UK, that number being 74.
Covid (SARS-CoV-2) has been identified in 20 globally tested cases. Adenovirus and Covid-19 co-infection were detected in 19 cases.
The new case from Japan tested negative for adenovirus and coronavirus, though officials have not released other details.
Often, children are exposed – and immune – to adenovirus and other common diseases during their childhood years. However, pandemic restrictions have largely limited that early exposure, leading to more severe immune reactions in some people.
Adenovirus, which presents with cold-like symptoms such as fever and sore throat, is generally mild. However, some strains of bacteria can exhibit a liver preference, or a preference for liver tissue, which can lead to more serious consequences such as liver damage.
Dr Amy Edwards, associate professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said the severity of this latest outbreak will depend largely on how far it spreads in the coming months.
“Adenovirus is a common and non-seasonal virus. If this is a more serious form of adenovirus that causes liver disease in children, that’s very worrying. But it’s isolated enough now and very few cases have been reported. case has not been reached,” she told CNBC.
Edwards said health authorities have been put on alert and will monitor the situation.
In the meantime, parents and guardians should be alert to common signs of hepatitis, including jaundice, dark urine, itchy skin and stomach pain, and contact a healthcare professional. health care if they are concerned.
“Common hygiene measures, such as thorough hand washing (including supervision of children) and thorough respiratory hygiene, help reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus.” UKHSA’s Chand said.
“Children with symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection including vomiting and diarrhea should stay home and not return to school or daycare until 48 hours after the symptoms have ceased,” she added.