Earlier this month, the World Health Organization was notified of a mysterious liver disease that has infected children in Scotland.
Similar cases then started emerging among children in Europe and later, even the United States. Now, it was even detected in Japan and it was flagged by local authorities on 21 April.
According to WHO’s recent press release, at least 169 cases of “acute hepatitis of unknown origin” were reported in Europe and the United States as of 21 April. If you factor the latest case in Japan, that changes the global tally to 170 cases.
The WHO said the majority of cases involve children between the ages of one month and 16 years old. It also said that at least 17 children have had to undergo liver transplants as a result of the mysterious hepatitis. As of now, at least one death has already been reported.
The case that was reported in Japan involves a child who is 16 years old or younger.
The country’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare did not explicitly state the age of the patient. The reported symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), and a spike in liver enzyme levels.
However, medical experts have yet to out what’s causing this child hepatitis. The tests that was conducted have so far detected the adenovirus in 74 cases and coronavirus in 20 cases.
They also said that the common viruses that cause acute viral hepatitis (hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E) have not been detected in any of these cases.
Meanwhile, medical experts were puzzled at the lack of adenovirus and coronavirus detection in the Japanese patient, who tested negative for both. According to Japan’s health ministry, the patient doesn’t have a history of liver transplants either.
Nonetheless, WHO said that further investigations are ongoing in countries that have identified cases and include more detailed clinical and exposure histories, toxicology testing (i.e. environmental and food toxicity testing), and additional virological/microbiological tests.
“It is not yet clear if there has been an increase in hepatitis cases, or an increase in awareness of hepatitis cases that occur at the expected rate but go undetected,” said WHO.
“While adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent.”
WHO also pointed out that the public should be more aware of the hepatitis cases considering the buzz going on about this outbreak.