The World Health Organization on Friday said it was investigating cases of severe acute hepatitis in children under the age of 13 in the UK, the United States, and Europe.
There is no official word from the WHO on whether the severe hepatitis cases in young children are linked to any covid-19 vaccine or the Coronavirus.
In several cases, the children required liver transplants due to the severity of their illness. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported.
The World Health Organization said Friday that the U.K. has been investigating at least 74 cases in which children came down with hepatitis, or liver inflammation. WHO said three similar cases have been reported in Spain and a few in Ireland.
Health officials in the United States are investigating nine similar cases. The incidents have all been in Alabama, but officials are looking to see if there are more elsewhere.
WHO officials said in a statement that given the increase in cases reported over the past month and enhanced case search activities, more cases are likely to be reported in the coming days.
In the United States, the children ranged in age from 1 to 6 years old, and two required liver transplants. WHO officials said European cases are similar in terms of their ages, but some are older.
Earlier this month, the WHO learned that 10 children from Scotland were suffering from liver problems. The first child became ill in January, and nine others in March. After being taken to the hospital, they became seriously ill and were diagnosed with hepatitis.
The liver helps the body process nutrients, filter blood, and fight infection. The infection caused symptoms such as jaundice, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Untreated hepatitis can be life-threatening.
At least 64 more cases have been identified since then, according to British health officials. The WHO reported that six cases required liver transplants, but none died.
Viruses associated with hepatitis types A, B, C, and E have been ruled out in laboratory testing. Officials say they are unaware of international travel or any other factors that could have put the kids in danger. However, there has been a recent spike in adenovirus outbreaks.
Adenoviruses symptoms and hepatitis in children
Many of these adenoviruses symptoms are associated with cold-like symptoms, fevers, sore throats, and pink eye. However, some versions can cause inflammation in the intestines and stomach.
Adenoviruses have previously been associated with hepatitis in children, especially those with weakened immune systems.
In some of the European children, adenovirus was present, while in some cases, COVID-19 was present. However, more lab work is needed to investigate possible links with specific viruses, the WHO said.
A number of children have been infected with hepatitis since November, according to Alabama health officials. Adenovirus was detected in each case. There is a possibility that one version of the virus – adenovirus 41 – is associated with gut inflammation.
Health officials said none of the Alabama cases had underlying conditions that would put them at risk for liver disease.
The CDC said in a statement that investigators are still learning more about these cases, including ruling out more common causes of hepatitis.