Last week, the UKHSA reported an unusual increase in cases of hepatitis in children in Great Britain. In some cases, acute liver failure is said to have occurred. The mysterious disease is now also emerging in other countries. What is the reason for the sudden increase in the number of cases? Should parents worry? FOCUS Online answers the most important questions.
1. What countries have been affected by hepatitis cases so far?
The UKHSA reported the first cases in Great Britain last week. According to the latest information from the European Union health authority ECDC, it is now also in children
For mysterious hepatitis diseases. There are now nine suspected cases in the US state of Alabama.
2. What countries are monitoring?
The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently studying 84 reported cases of hepatitis in children in Great Britain. However, the organization expects the number of cases to continue to rise in the next few days.
According to the current state of knowledge, above all Children under the age of ten Affected, mostly Age between two and five years. In Great Britain, some seriously ill children had to be transferred to specialized pediatric liver wards. According to the World Health Organization, six of them had to undergo a new liver transplant.
According to the ECDC report, a questionnaire is currently being used to record the food and drink of affected children in order to draw conclusions about a possible cause of the disease. Personal habits are also questionable. However, no common external factor has been identified so far.
3. Are there already cases in Germany?
The bewildering increase in the number of hepatitis cases is also causing irritation in this country. However, in Germany, no similar cases are currently known, as the German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescents (DGKJ) reported when asked by FOCUS Online. Just this week, a rapid survey was carried out in all centers specializing in hepatitis in Germany. So far the situation has been unremarkable. But we will continue to monitor the situation.
4. How does hepatitis manifest itself?
Doctors understand that hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which can be caused by viruses, toxins, medications, or autoimmune diseases. Depending on the cause and duration, different forms of hepatitis are distinguished. “Hepatitis, that is, inflammation of the liver, is fairly rare in children and is classically caused by known hepatitis viruses,” explains Burkard Roddick, pediatric gastroenterologist and general secretary of the German Society of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. According to a UKHSA report, current cases of hepatitis are not caused by the common hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E.
To date, hepatitis in children has manifested itself with the following symptoms:
- Vomiting and nausea
- yellowing of the skin (jaundice, jaundice)
- stomach pain
However, unlike normal hepatitis, most children do not develop a fever. In addition, symptoms of the viral disease that originally caused – eg, an upper respiratory infection can occur.
5. What could be the cause of cases of hepatitis?
Background checks for disease cases are continuing in all affected countries, the CDC said. “Currently, the exact cause of hepatitis in these children is unknown.” This is mainly due to the fact that known pathogens of hepatitis A, B, C, D and E were not detected in those infected. So British health authorities are examining links with other common pathogens such as the coronavirus as well as other past infections and environmental factors. According to the ECDC, infection is the most likely cause.
Dr. Roddick also explains that in rare cases, other viral diseases with an effect on the liver can lead to hepatitis. “For example, those caused by cytomegaloviruses and Epstein-Barr viruses, rarely even adenoviruses, often in patients with immune diseases.”
A gastroenterologist sees a potential catalyst in the increased relief after the coronavirus pandemic. Children and young adults came out of isolation in a relatively short time and were suddenly exposed to many germs that they had never had contact with due to various lockdowns or other measures. Therefore, infection with pathogens can be the cause of an increase in the number of cases of hepatitis.
6. Is there a connection to Covid-19 or vaccination?
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cases of hepatitis so far have not been linked to the corona vaccination. Some children infected with SARS-CoV-2 and others have been found to be infected with adenoviruses. However, none of the children had ever been vaccinated against corona.
In addition, no clear link has been identified between the reported cases and known coronavirus infections or flights, as reported by the World Health Organization and UKHSA. “Link to Sars-CoV-2 is theoretically possible, but not very plausible,” Roddick explains. All children described were tested for SARS-CoV-2. This should have been a positive more often than just a coincidence. “These cases of hepatitis also should have been noticed early in the epidemic,” says the doctor.
7. Do parents need to worry?
The clinical picture of mysterious liver disease must be taken seriously in any case. Hepatitis is an acute acute inflammation of the liver with a significant increase in the levels of transaminases – enzymes that perform the functions of intracellular metabolism.
Elevated transaminases in children up to 16 years of age are often associated with jaundice, sometimes with symptoms such as vomiting. However, according to Rodeck, acute childhood viral hepatitis is often asymptomatic or causes only mild weakness. Since there are currently no known cases of infection in Germany, parents should remain calm. Excessive anxiety is not indicated according to the current situation. However, parents should consult a doctor if they develop symptoms in order to clarify the exact cause of the disease.
8. How can I protect my child?
Preventive measures and general hygiene also protect against hepatitis infection. For example, Mira Chand, Head of Clinical and Emerging Infections at the UK’s Health Safety Authority, advises regular hand washing and sanitizing to reduce the spread of potential infection.
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