Some cases of the worrying strain of hepatitis affecting young children have been discovered in the West Midlands, health chiefs have confirmed. It is not clear how many children are affected, but regional specialists have issued new advice to parents on the signs to be aware of.
So far, a total of 111 young children, most under the age of five, have been affected by the unusual form of hepatitis across the UK. In about one in nine cases, the child has needed a liver transplant.
Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s world-class pediatric delivery unit, one of the country’s specialized sites for the treatment and research of viral hepatitis, is at the forefront of the national response to the cases. Prof Deirdre Kelly, consulting pediatric hepatologist in the liver unit and professor of pediatric hepatology at the University of Birmingham, gave a national briefing on the outbreak, in which she said the cause of the cases was still unclear, but said children generally recovered well. .
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This afternoon, Dr. Mamoona Tahir, a West Midlands infectious disease consultant who leads on blood-borne infections, told the British Public Health Agency (formerly Public Health England) that she was unable to provide a regional overview of where the cases took place, but there were 111 confirmed cases in children under 10 years of age. All “have been diagnosed as having hepatitis, in which the usual viruses that cause the infection (hepatitis A to E) have not been detected.”
She said: “The cases are predominantly in children under the age of five, who showed initial symptoms of gastroenteritis – diarrhea and nausea – followed by jaundice. So far, 10 of these children have received a liver transplant. Studies are being carried out in a small number of children over 10. ”
She ruled out a link to the Covid-19 vaccine, saying none of the confirmed cases were in children known to have been vaccinated. “There is no evidence of a link to the COVID-19 vaccine,” she said.
The emergence of so many unusual cases in what are understood as healthy young children has triggered a national event. As a result, the only available information is issued by the UK Health Security Agency, formerly Public Health England. Health authorities are eager to ensure that parents, teachers and health professionals are informed about the symptoms.
Dr. Tahir said: “It is important for parents and guardians to be able to spot signs of hepatitis so they can contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns about their child’s health.” Symptoms include:
- dark urine
- pale gray stools
- muscle and joint pain
- itchy skin
- yellowing of the white part of the eyes or the skin (jaundice)
- to feel and be ill
- abdominal pain, loss of appetite
- a high temperature
- feeling unusually tired all the time.
“Children who experience symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection, including vomiting and diarrhea, should stay home and not return to school or nursery until 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped,” said Dr. Tahir.
“Thorough hand washing is important to prevent the spread of infection, and it is important to monitor young children to make sure they wash their hands properly, especially before eating and after going to the toilet.”
A spokesman for the UKHSA in the West Midlands said they were unable to provide a detailed list of cases but confirmed there were cases in the region.
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