Hepatitis in children: Parents need to know now – a guide

Since mid-April, there have been mysterious cases of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) in children around the world. Reason: unknown.

169 cases of acute hepatitis are known to date in 12 countries. This was announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the end of the week. In seventeen children, a liver transplant was required as a result of the disease, and one child died as a result of the infection.

Not common hepatitis

So far, two-thirds of cases have occurred in the UK. There are also cases in Spain, Israel, the United States, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium. The patients’ ages ranged between one month and 16 years.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), there have been no clear cases of hepatitis in children in Germany. RKI advises parents to be vigilant.

Mystery: hepatitis B viruses (A, B, C, D, and E) cannot be detected in any way. However, it is known that other viruses can also cause hepatitis. What’s behind this is now being investigated.

Does vaccination cause corona?

Doctors around the world are currently trying to get to the heart of the cause. The quickly expressed assumption that a corona vaccination may be behind it is now rejected because the majority of infected children have not been vaccinated.

One hypothesis is that behind them are the so-called “adenoviruses”. In 74 cases it can be detected in the blood of children. Adenoviruses are pathogens responsible for various diseases such as respiratory diseases or gastrointestinal infections.

However, according to the World Health Organization, these viruses usually do not have these fatal effects on the liver. One assumption is that due to the low prevalence of adenoviruses during the Corona pandemic and thus the “untrained” immune systems of some children, infections could currently be particularly severe and also lead to hepatitis. Or: There is a new strain of adenovirus that is still unknown.

In 20 cases there was concomitant infection with adenovirus and SARS-CoV-2. So corona infection could also be a possible cause, the World Health Organization explains.

How do you recognize hepatitis infection in your child?

Pediatrician Dr. Jacob Maske: “As a rule, hepatitis in children is really very rare.” Therefore, the backlog of cases is currently unusual. The situation is difficult because there is no treatment. “Unfortunately, we don’t know what’s behind it. A doctor can only treat symptoms here, nothing more.”

You have to trust that in most children the body will fight the disease on its own. “There aren’t any cases in Germany yet, so please don’t panic if your child has stomach cramps. The likelihood that something else is behind it is much higher. If your child hasn’t been eating really much for days and isn’t feeling well, See a doctor.”

Symptoms of affected children worldwide are: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, yellowing of the skin and sclera (the white part of the eye), and, in very rare cases, fever.

ABC for hepatitis

▶ ︎ Hepatitis A

Transmission: Via drinking water and food contaminated with feces

Leads to: Nausea, diarrhea, acute hepatitis

Treatment: none, it usually heals on its own

Vaccination: yes

▶ ︎ hepatitis B

Transmission: sex, infected syringes or tattoo needles

It leads to: the first symptoms such as colds and chronic hepatitis.

Treatment: interferon (stimulates the immune system) and lamivudine (an antiviral agent)

Vaccination: yes

▶ ︎ hepatitis C

Transmission: direct blood-to-blood contact

Leads to: jaundice, nausea, chronic hepatitis

Treatment: antiviral and ribavirin (stops viral replication)

Vaccination: No vaccine has been developed yet

▶ ︎ Hepatitis D

Transmission: as with hepatitis B (occurs only with hepatitis B)

Leads to: chronic hepatitis.

Treatment: like b

Hepatitis B vaccination protects against hepatitis D

▶ ︎ Hepatitis E.

Transmission: Through contaminated drinking water.

Leads to: acute hepatitis, similar to hepatitis A

Treatment: none

Vaccination: under development

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