18 more British children are stricken with mysterious hepatitis of ‘unknown origin’

18 more British children are stricken with mysterious hepatitis of ‘unknown origin’

  • This brings the UK’s running total to 240 since the first was spotted in January
  • 170 cases were in England, 32 in Scotland, 21 in Northern Ireland and 17 in Wales
  • The leading theory is that a strain of the common cold has become more severe

Another 18 British children have fallen ill with the mysterious hepatitis which has caused a series of cases around the world.

Health officials announced the new cases today, bringing the cumulative total in the UK to 240 since the first was spotted in January.

Of the confirmed patients, 170 were in England, 32 in Scotland, 21 in Northern Ireland and 17 in Wales.

They mainly concern children under the age of five – but a “small number” of children aged over 10 have also been shot.

Scientists still don’t know what causes the life-threatening liver disease, but they say the main culprit is a strain of the common cold.

A leading theory is that children’s immune systems have been weakened due to lockdowns and school closures during the pandemic.

The complication has been spotted in approximately 650 children in Europe, the United States, South America, the Middle East and Asia.

At least a dozen young people died and dozens of children needed liver transplants. No child died in the UK.

The mysterious hepatitis has been spotted in the United States, Western Europe and a handful of other countries. Worldwide, at least 12 young people have died and dozens have needed liver transplants

Announcing the new cases today, Dr Sophia Makki, Incident Director at the UK Health Security Agency, said: The likelihood of children developing hepatitis remains extremely low.

“Maintaining normal hygiene measures, including ensuring that children regularly wash their hands properly, helps reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus.”

The normal culprits – the hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses – were excluded from the lab test results of recent cases.

Experts are now working on the theory that they are triggered by a group of viruses that normally cause colds, called adenoviruses.

It’s unclear whether a mutated strain of adenovirus evolved to become more severe, or whether a lack of social contact during the pandemic made children more vulnerable to existing strains.

Dr Makki: “We continue to remind everyone to be alert for signs of hepatitis – especially jaundice, to look for a yellow tint to the whites of the eyes – and to contact your doctor if you are concerned.”

UKHSA officials said there was no evidence the Covid vaccine was involved as most cases were in children under five, who were not bitten.

They are due to release a report of preliminary findings next week.

Symptoms of the complication normally begin with diarrhea or sickness. It can then cause the skin and eyes to turn yellow.

The United States has recorded 216 cases in 37 states, with Mississippi and Utah the latest to be added to the growing list.

No new deaths or liver transplants have been reported in the past seven days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in their weekly update, with the totals remaining at 14 and six respectively.

The agency did not disclose where the deaths occurred due to “confidentiality issues,” but at least one was recorded in Wisconsin health chiefs in the state.

Globally, the UK has now had the most confirmed and suspected cases of any country – although this may be due to stronger surveillance than other countries.

Top experts fear health chiefs won’t understand what’s behind this particular pattern – which has sickened at least 520 children worldwide since March – for months.

Although mild inflammation of the liver is not uncommon in children, severe disease, as seen in these cases, is.

The mysterious liver inflammation has also claimed more than 200 cases in the United States across 37 states.

Q&A: What is the mysterious global hepatitis epidemic and what is behind it?

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection or liver damage caused by alcohol consumption.

Some cases resolve on their own with no lingering problems, but a fraction can be fatal, requiring patients to need liver transplants to survive.

What are the symptoms?

People with hepatitis typically experience fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, pale stools, and joint pain.

They can also suffer from jaundice – when the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow.

Why are experts concerned?

Hepatitis is generally rare in children, but experts have already spotted more cases in the current outbreak than they would normally expect in a year.

The cases are of “unknown origin” and are also serious, according to the World Health Organization.

What are the best theories?

Weakened immunity

British experts investigating the wave of illness believe the endless cycle of lockdowns may have played a contributing role.

The restrictions may have weakened children’s immunity due to reduced social mixing, leaving them at increased risk of adenovirus.

This means that even the “normal” adenovirus could be the cause of the serious consequences, because children do not react to it as they did in the past.

Adenoviral mutation

Other scientists said it may have been the adenovirus that had acquired “unusual mutations”.

This would mean that it might be more transmissible or better able to circumvent children’s natural immunity.


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