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News Article

WHO Issues Epidemiological Warning for Acute Childhood Hepatitis

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 05/06/2022 - 13:11

Three days after the World Health Organization (WHO) informed of an alarming number of acute childhood hepatitis cases, Mexican authorities issued an epidemiological warning so the country’s health institutions are on high alert. As of Tuesday, 228 cases of acute childhood hepatitis have been reported in minors from at least 20 countries, almost double the number registered 10 days ago, reports the WHO.

As of today, The Ministry of Health has not registered cases of childhood hepatitis. Nonetheless, through the epidemiological warning, all health units are to be alert and report any probable infection of this type and send the corresponding sample for study to the National Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference (InDRE).

The WHO reports that those affected range from one month to 16 years old. In most cases, they do not present fever and none of them have tested positive for the viruses usually associated with viral hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

Some cases were reported in the US, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  informed that all patients tested negative for the hepatitis A, B, and C viruses and also for COVID-19. Seven of the nine pediatric patients were suffering from vomiting or diarrhea before admission and five of the nine tested positive for adenovirus, a common family of at least 50 different viruses that includes the common cold and typically causes respiratory symptoms but can also cause intestinal problems. The adenovirus is being investigated as one of the hypotheses for the underlying cause of this outbreak but doctors had not seen it cause hepatitis in otherwise healthy children, explained the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Adenovirus’s symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea but infection often lasts a short time and does not evolve into more serious conditions. However, rare cases of severe adenovirus infections have caused hepatitis in immunocompromised or transplant patients, said PAHO. The current infected children do not match that description as they were previously healthy.

“Severe hepatitis leading to liver failure is extremely rare, a diagnosis of adenovirus should not make one reflexively worry it will lead to this rare complication,” said Michael Klatte, Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease, Dayton Children’s Hospital, to WebMD.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst