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Experts baffled by mysterious pediatric liver disease striking US and UK – is it New COVID variant?

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

More cases of strange liver disease rising in kids in the UK and it’s unclear what’s behind this phenomenon, according to health officials, with fresh infections spreading across Europe and the United States.

Since January, British officials have identified 74 cases of hepatitis, or liver inflammation, in children. Most of the viruses that cause infectious hepatitis didn’t show up in the cases. Scientists and doctors are now looking at other possible sources, like COVID-19, other viruses, and the environment.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control stated in a statement on Tuesday that further instances of hepatitis had been discovered in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Spain, but did not indicate how many cases had been discovered. According to the report, US investigators discovered nine cases of severe hepatitis in youngsters ages 1 to 6 in Alabama.

“Mild hepatitis is very common in children following a range of viral infections, but what is being seen at the moment is quite different,” said Graham Cooke, an infectious diseases professor at Imperial College London. In the United Kingdom, some instances necessitated expert care at liver units, and a few required a liver transplant.

Cooke was skeptical. COVID-19 was the culprit.

“If the hepatitis was a result of COVID it would be surprising not to see it more widely distributed across the country given the high prevalence of (COVID-19) at the moment,” he said.

“At present, the exact cause of hepatitis in these children remains unknown,” the European CDC said.

Adenoviruses, a family of common viruses responsible for diseases such as pink eye, sore throat, and diarrhea, were previously mentioned as one of the possible reasons being investigated by UK experts. The nine children in Alabama who had acute hepatitis tested positive for adenovirus, according to US authorities.

Some doctors have pointed out that just because adenoviruses are so widespread in youngsters, discovering them in people who have hepatitis does not always suggest the viruses are to blame for the liver illness.

Officials in the United Kingdom ruled out any link to COVID-19 vaccines, claiming that none of the children affected had been vaccinated.

“Other infectious causes still being explored include increased severity of disease following infection with Omicron BA.2 (the dominant SARS-CoV-2 virus circulating in Scotland) or infection by an as yet uncharacterised SARS-CoV-2 variant,” Euro Surveillance scientists wrote in a recent report.

“Of note, none of the children were vaccinated for SARS-CoV-2. A novel or yet undetected virus also cannot be ruled out at this time.”

In Britain, there’s been an increase in the number of adenoviruses, which are spreading at the same time as COVID-19. The World Health Organization says it’s not clear what role the viruses might play in causing hepatitis. Although some of the youngsters tested positive for coronavirus, WHO warned that genetic investigation of the virus was needed to see if the cases were linked.

There were no further connections established between the children in the United Kingdom, and none had recently traveled internationally, according to the report. Lab tests are also being conducted to see if a chemical or poison is to blame.

In Ireland, there were less than five probable cases and three confirmed cases in children aged 22 months to 13 years, according to the WHO.

Given the increase in cases in the last month and increased surveillance, the UN health agency said it was “very likely” that more cases would be discovered before the outbreak’s cause was established.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • A high temperature
  • Feeling and being sick
  • Feeling unusually tired all the time
  • A general sense of feeling unwell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tummy pain
  • Dark urine
  • Pale, grey-coloured poo
  • Itchy skin
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice).

If you notice any of above symptoms, please speak to your doctor immediately.

Image Credit: Getty

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