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348 probable cases of acute hepatitis in children reported globally: WHO – National | Globalnews.ca
348 probable cases of acute hepatitis in children reported globally: WHO – National | Globalnews.ca

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday that there are now 348 probable cases of acute hepatitis among children across five regions globally.

The new cases are in addition to 70 others previously reported, according to Dr. Philippa Easterbrook, a senior scientist in the WHO’s hepatitis department.

The U.K. currently leads in cases with around 163, and only six countries are reporting more than five cases. The U.S. recently announced it was investigating 109 probable cases of “unknown origin” on Friday, and the WHO’s numbers reflect that addition.

The cases reported are a mixture of new cases and historic ones, Easterbrook said.

Read more:

7 probable cases of severe acute hepatitis in children reported at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital

Toronto’s SickKids Hospital reported seven probable cases of severe acute hepatitis on Monday, all of “unknown origin,” in children between one month and 16 years of age. The cases were identified between Oct. 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022, and SickKids said it remains to be seen whether the cases recently reported are a spike from previous years.

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It is still unclear how many cases total there are across Canada.

Hepatitis is usually caused by one of several contagious hepatitis viruses, like A and B, which have not been found in the affected children in Toronto.

Read more:

U.S. probing 109 severe hepatitis cases of ‘unknown origin’ in kids

While it is still unknown why there has been a spike in cases globally, Easterbrook said a strong correlation has been found with adenovirus, a common ailment that typically features cold or flu-like symptoms. Over 70 per cent of the U.K.’s cases tested positive for adenovirus.

Easterbrook said adenovirus type 41 was most common among the cases, which typically causes diarrhea, vomiting and fever, as well as respiratory symptoms, according to the WHO. She said more data from the U.K. will hopefully come within the week to see whether the adenovirus is a correlation or causal.

COVID-19 was also detected in 18 per cent of the U.K. cases and the WHO is investigating how many of the total hepatitis cases previously had the virus.

“An important consideration is the role of COVID, either as a co-infection or past infection,” Easterbrook said.


Click to play video: 'Health Matters:  Unraveling a mysterious liver disease'



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Health Matters: Unraveling a mysterious liver disease – Apr 20, 2022

The WHO is currently working closely with all regions in its active investigation, and is co-ordinating with the U.K. Health Security Agency.

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Hepatitis impacts the liver and can be detected by the onset of jaundice (yellow eyes), dark urine and/or pale stool. Five children have died so far in the U.S. and there have been at least three deaths in Indonesia from the illness.

— with files from Gabby Rodrigues

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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