Wednesday 6 December 2023
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Increase in hepatitis cases in children under 10 years old

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Public Health Scotland, Public Health Wales and the Public Health Agency are continuing to investigate a rise in cases of sudden onset hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children aged 10 and under since January 2022, where the usual viruses that cause infectious hepatitis (hepatitis A to E) have not been detected.

Our active case finding investigations have identified a further 34 cases since our last update, bringing the total number of cases to 108. All the children affected presented to health services between January 2022 and 12 April 2022.

Of the confirmed cases, 79 are in England, 14 are in Scotland and the remainder are in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Of these cases, 8 children have received a liver transplant.

There is no link to the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. None of the currently confirmed cases in the UK is known to have been vaccinated.

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The investigation, including information from patient samples and surveillance systems, continues to point towards a link to adenovirus infection. Seventy-seven per cent of cases tested were positive for adenovirus. However, as it is not usual to see this pattern of disease from adenovirus, we are actively investigating other possible contributing factors, such as another infection (including COVID-19) or an environmental cause.

We are also investigating whether there has been a change in the genome of the adenovirus. UKHSA is working with scientists and clinicians across the country to answer these questions as quickly as possible.

Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said:

“We are working with the NHS and public health colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to swiftly investigate a wide range of possible factors which may be causing children to be admitted to hospital with liver inflammation known as hepatitis.

“Information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this is linked to adenovirus infection. However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.

“Normal hygiene measures such as thorough handwashing (including supervising children) and good thorough respiratory hygiene, help to reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus.

“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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