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 connection to coronavirus.
Fs Productions | tetra images | fake images
Japan has detected its first probable case of a mysterious liver disease that has so far affected more than 170 children, mainly in Britain, as health experts explore its possible links to Covid-19.
Japan’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday that a boy had been hospitalized with an unidentified type of severe acute hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, in what is believed to be the first reported case in Asia.
As of April 23, at least 169 cases of the disease have been detected in 11 countries globally, according to the World Health Organization. The vast majority of them have been in the UK (114), followed by Spain (13), Israel (12), and the US (9). The addition of Japan marks the 12th country to identify a case.
Of those infected, one child has died and 17 have required liver transplants.
The WHO said “it is very likely that more cases will be detected before the cause can be confirmed.”
Health experts explore Covid links
Until now, children aged five and under have been the most affected by the disease, although cases have been detected in children aged one month to 16 years.
Common symptoms including gastroenteritis (diarrhea and nausea) followed by jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Health experts are now investigating the probable cause of the outbreak, which was first reported in the UK in January 2022, and whether it has any connection to the coronavirus.
Specifically, they are exploring whether a lack of previous exposure to common viruses known as adenoviruses during coronavirus restrictions or a previous infection with Covid-19 may be related. Alternatively, the genetic makeup of hepatitis may have mutated, resulting in an easier triggering of liver inflammation.
Crucially, experts say there is no known link to the Covid-19 vaccine.
Children typically gain exposure and immunity to adenoviruses and other common illnesses during their early childhood years. However, pandemic restrictions greatly limited that early exposure.
Eric Lalmand | Afp | fake images
A strain of adenovirus called F41 seems so far the most likely cause, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
“Information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this increase in sudden-onset hepatitis in children is related to adenovirus infection. However, we are fully investigating other potential causes,” said Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging UKHSA infections.
Adenovirus was the most common pathogen detected in 40 of 53 (75%) of the confirmed cases tested in the UK. Globally, that number was 74.
Covid (SARS-CoV-2) was identified in 20 cases of those tested worldwide. Adenovirus and Covid-19 coinfection was detected in 19 cases.
The new case from Japan tested negative for adenovirus and coronavirus, although authorities have not disclosed other details.
What are the symptoms and how concerned should we be?
Children typically gain exposure and immunity to adenoviruses and other common illnesses during their early childhood years. However, pandemic restrictions greatly limited that early exposure, leading to more severe immune responses in some.
Adenoviruses, which have cold-like symptoms such as fever and sore throat, are generally mild. However, some strains may show hepatic tropism or favor liver tissue, which may have more serious consequences, such as liver damage.
It’s not yet clear how serious this latest outbreak will be and will largely depend on how much it spreads in the coming months, according to Dr. Amy Edwards, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.
“Adenovirus is a ubiquitous virus and it’s not seasonal. If it’s a more severe form of adenovirus that causes liver disease in children, that’s very concerning. But right now it’s isolated enough and there are few cases that it’s not jump to conclusions,” he said. CNBC.
Edwards said health authorities had been put on alert and would be monitoring the situation.
In the meantime, parents and guardians should watch for common signs of hepatitis, such as jaundice, dark urine, itchy skin, and stomach pain, and contact a health professional if they are concerned.
“Normal hygiene measures such as good handwashing (including supervision of children) and full respiratory hygiene help reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus,” UKHSA’s Chand said.
“Children experiencing symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection, including vomiting and diarrhea, should stay home and not return to school or daycare until 48 hours after symptoms have resolved,” it added.