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Public Health Wales investigating four new acute hepatitis cases in children

23 May 2022 3 minutes Read
An NHS hospital ward. Picture by Peter Byrne / PA Wire

Public Health Wales is investigating four new cases of acute hepatitis in children.

Investigations have identified 17 cases in Wales so far, an increase of four cases since the last update on 6 May, they said.

A number of hypotheses are being investigated and the information gathered so far increasingly suggests that the rise in these cases may be linked to adenovirus infection, (a common illness which can cause cold or flu-like symptoms), with other factors likely to be playing a role.

Dr Ardiana Gjini, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for Public Health Wales, said: “Hepatitis can cause jaundice and inflammation of the liver, so parents and carers should be aware of the symptoms of jaundice – including skin with a yellow tinge which is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes.

“We are reminding the public to familiarise themselves with this and other symptoms of hepatitis in light of these UK cases.

“In addition, the importance of maintaining normal hygiene routines, especially ensuring that children wash their hands properly, help to reduce the spread of many common infections.

“Parents and carers are reminded that they should keep their children away from school and seek advice from a GP or an appropriate specialist if their child experiences any symptoms linked with hepatitis.”

Investigation

Hepatitis symptoms include:

  • dark urine
  • pale, grey-coloured poo
  • itchy skin
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high temperature
  • feeling and being sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • tummy pain

Public Health Wales said they were working with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) as well as Public Health Scotland (PHS) and Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland) to investigate cases of acute hepatitis in children.

Most cases in the UK so far are in children under the age of 10, though some teenagers have also been recently identified with the illness.

Many of those affected have experienced vomiting and diarrhoea, and cases have been reported worldwide, with the US saying it was investigating over 180 cases.

The global toll of sudden and unexplained hepatitis in children has risen to over 600 cases from 34 countries, but most are in the UK and USA.

Last week experts ruled out a link with dogs. Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, told a briefing that investigations had found no role for either owning dogs or recent contact with dogs in cases of acute hepatitis.


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