Thursday, February 22, 2024

Unexplained hepatitis in children: a ‘public health concern’

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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On Thursday, the European Disease Control Agency classified unexplained cases of acute hepatitis in children as a “public health concern”, while acknowledging that it was unable to accurately assess the risks.

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The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) indicates its first public risk assessment since the onset of the disease.

First reported in Scotland at the end of March, the number of cases recorded worldwide currently stands at 191 (111 in the UK, 55 in 12 other European countries, 12 in the US, 12 in Israel, and one in Japan). ), according to the ECDC.

This disease is very rare and evidence of human-to-human transmission is still unclear. Cases in the European Union are sporadic with an unclear trend,” notes the agency responsible for diseases and epidemics.

The agency, which covers 27 European Union countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, said the risks to children in Europe “cannot be accurately estimated”.

“However, given the reported cases of acute liver failure, with cases requiring transplantation, the potential impact on children is considered high,” she says.

The affected children ranged in age from 1 month to 16 years, but most were less than 10 years old, and many were less than 5 years old. Nobody has comorbidities.

The main “hypothesis” in the work is that the disease is related to adenoviruses, which are fairly common and well-known viruses, which generally cause respiratory, eye and gastrointestinal symptoms.

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According to this evidence, “adenovirus infection, which would be mild under normal circumstances, would result in more severe infection or immune-mediated liver injury.”

According to the CDC, other causes, including toxic, “are still under investigation and have not been ruled out, but are considered less plausible.”

The agency recommends that countries improve their surveillance for cases.

Since the cause of the disease is still unknown, “effective control measures cannot be determined at this stage.” But the agency recommends “promoting good hygiene practices” (cleaning hands and surfaces “in places frequented by young children”.

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