Hepatitis in children: 7 deaths worldwide

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Mexican authorities on Friday confirmed the country’s first child death from acute hepatitis of unknown origin; it is also the first known death from it in Latin America, as cases continue to rise internationally.

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The three-year-old boy, from the state of Hidalgo (central), had been treated and hospitalized in the capital, where he succumbed this week, the Hidalgo’s health secretariat announced.

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Three other suspected cases of the disease are being studied in the same state.

Hepatitis is not uncommon in children, but doctors have recently noticed a worrying increase in cases of very severe inflammation of the liver in – otherwise healthy – children under the age of five. Globally, the death toll has now reached seven.

The causes of the disease remain unknown. Cases are not attributed to the most common forms of hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E), are not considered autoimmune, nor are they due to some form of poisoning. Scientists speculate that “adenovirus 41 plays a role”, a US health official said yesterday, while it is also being studied whether “a previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 may play a role”, but the COVID-19 vaccines do not are on the list of possible causes as the vast majority of children who developed hepatitis internationally were not vaccinated – they were too young to be vaccinated.

The sixth death occurred in the USA, the American health authorities announced on Friday, which counts 180 cases so far.

Most of the approximately 70 additional cases from the beginning of May until this week are not recent, however, they clarified. Quite a few just mentioned afterwards.

The causes of these serious inflammations of the liver are still being investigated by scientists, underlined an official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main federal public health service of the country.

So far, the “key hypothesis” is that “adenovirus 41 plays an important role,” recalled Jay Butler, a CDC executive in charge of infectious diseases. Adenoviruses are generally prevalent, but until now it was not known how they could cause hepatitis in healthy children.

“Nevertheless, we continue to look at several other possible causes besides the adenovirus, including the question of whether prior infection with SARS-CoV-2 (the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection) may play a role,” he added. .

Less than 20% of cases of hepatitis of unknown origin were found to have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, Butler said.

However, the COVID-19 vaccines were removed from the list of possible causes: the vast majority of children who developed hepatitis were not vaccinated – they were too young to be vaccinated.

The median age of children with severe hepatitis is 2 years. The cases are geographically scattered throughout the country. All 15 needed a liver transplant.

Parents are encouraged to be vigilant about the appearance of possible symptoms in their children (vomiting, deep urine, diarrhea, abdominal pain, jaundice …) and to contact their pediatrician if they are worried.

However, the cases remain “rare” and “the data we have so far are reassuring,” Butler said. Surprisingly, there has been no increase in pediatric hepatitis cases compared to previous years so far, he explained.

Hundreds of cases have been reported worldwide, mainly in Europe. The United Kingdom has recorded the most (197) and is also working to verify the causes of the disease, specifically by organizing studies of children’s genes and their immune system responses.

Source: Capital

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