The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring an outbreak of hepatitis of unknown origin, which is affecting children between 1 month and 16 years of age. By the end of April, around 170 cases had been registered worldwide, and in 10% of them the disease was so severe that a liver transplant was required.
So far, cases have been reported in 11 countries, the one with the most cases being the United Kingdom (114). For now, in the Americas region, cases have only been reported in the United States. But health officials warn that these figures may be changing by the hour.
Scientists investigating this outbreak have detected the presence of adenovirus in many of the cases, which they suspect may be the source of the outbreak. It is a family of viruses that circulate widely and can cause a wide range of illnesses, from the common cold to acute gastroenteritis.
In this particular outbreak, many of the affected infants, children, and adolescents carried a particular adenovirus: type 41. This type of adenovirus usually causes respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, but never severe hepatitis.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recorded cases in at least 10 states: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. .
The CDC said that in all cases, the children are healthy, with no significant pre-existing condition or weak immune systems. The federal health entity issued a national alert for care systems to identify and report these unusual cases of hepatitis. CDC epidemiologists are working with the Alabama Department of Health, since a group of nine cases of this type of hepatitis has been registered in that state.
The symptoms of hepatitis are varied and often overlap with the symptoms of other conditions. They may not all show up at once. Among them, the most common are:
- Fever (may not be high)
- Muscle and joint pain
- Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting
- loss of appetite
- Discomfort in the upper abdomen
- dark urine
- Jaundice or yellowish skin (this symptom reveals inflammation in the liver, although this organ can be inflamed without the patient presenting Jaundice)
The adenovirus is very easily transmitted from person to person, through droplets that spread through the air, or by touching a surface where the virus landed, which would partly explain the cases in different parts of the world and the forecast of there will be more cases.
The main measure at the moment is to try to prevent contracting the adenovirus, and spreading it, and parents can help by asking their children to wash their hands frequently. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself and family members from getting sick.
They should also avoid touching their face and mouth as much as possible, basically the same measures that help prevent infection from so many other viruses, including the coronavirus that causes COVID.
Of course, it is essential to consult with the pediatrician or family doctor, who will be able to carry out the necessary tests to determine if the minor has developed the new form of hepatitis.