Warning mystery hepatitis surge in kids causing liver failure – the 10 signs to watch out for

Warning mystery hepatitis surge in kids causing liver failure – the 10 signs to watch out for

April 14, 2022

PARENTS have been urged to be on the look out for signs of hepatitis in kids after 74 cases were detected in the UK.

The condition can, in serious cases lead to liver failure and experts have not yet pinned down the reason for the mysterious outbreak.

Prof Graham Cooke, NIHR Research Professor of Infectious Diseases, Imperial College London explained that hepatitis is a broad term to describe inflammation of the liver.

He said that this could be down to a range of issues which may be infectious or a consequence of exposure to a toxic substance, including alcohol and some medications.

"Globally, the most important causes are viruses that have adapted to infect the liver.

"Early tests appear to have excluded these as a cause in the hepatitis currently under investigation.

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“Mild hepatitis is very common in children following a range of viral infections, but what is being seen at the moment is quite different. 

"Children are experiencing more severe inflammation, in a few cases leading the liver to fail and require transplantation."

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are investigating a range of causes for the outbreak, such as adenoviruses, Covid-19, other infections and environmental causes.

While the experts are investigating possible ties to Covid-19, officials said there is 'no link' to vaccines as the children diagnosed with hepatitis did not have a jab.

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Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that cause a range of mild illnesses and most people recover without any complications.

If you have caught a virus like this then you will likely experience symptoms such as colds, sickness and diarrhoea.

The viruses don't causes hepatitis, but are a known side effect.

As more cases of hepatitis have been identified, parents of young children have been urged to watch out for the key signs of the illness.

The 10 main hepatitis symptoms are:

  1. dark urine
  2. pale, grey-coloured poo
  3. itchy skin
  4. yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  5. muscle and joint pain
  6. a high temperature
  7. feeling and being sick
  8. feeling unusually tired all the time
  9. loss of appetite
  10. tummy pain

Long-term hepatitis can also develop without any symptoms, until the liver fails completely, so it is sometimes only caught in blood tests.

It's important to note that these 10 symptoms might not always been down to hepatitis and that if you child has unusual symptoms then you should see your GP.

Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, UKHSA, said they were trying to get to the bottom of possible factors that are causing children to be admitted to hospital with hepatitis.

Dr Chand said: "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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“Normal hygiene measures such as good handwashing, including supervising children, and respiratory hygiene, help to reduce the spread of many of the infections that we are investigating.

"We are also calling on parents and guardians, to be alert to the signs of hepatitis – including jaundice – and to contact a healthcare professional if they are concerned.”

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