Mystery hepatitis outbreak hits number of children as link to Covid-19 tested
It has mostly emerged in children aged two to 12 years of age. A small number have needed a liver transplant
A small number of unexplained cases of serious hepatitis in young children – which UK experts have speculated could be linked to Covid-19 – is under investigation in this country, the HSE confirmed yesterday.
Paediatricians have been urged to be on the look-out for potential signs of the illness, which causes liver inflammation, in young children.
A HSE spokeswoman said that following information from the UK, the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre is working with clinical leads in paediatrics to review a “very small” number of serious hepatitis cases identified in Ireland in recent weeks.
She said there is “currently no clear evidence of causes of these cases, nor is there evidence of any connection between them”.
The HSE and the Department of Health will continue to keep results of investigations and studies under close review.
A spokeswoman for the HSE told the Sunday World it has issued “precautionary information to consultants in this specialty”.
Senior doctors in the HSE and Department of Health are understood to have met to discuss the concerning cases.
Health authorities in the UK have identified a cluster of cases or liver inflammation among young children which could be linked to an unknown infection.
So far 60 cases have been diagnosed in England and 11 in Scotland involving unexplained hepatitis or liver inflammation since the start of the year.
It has mostly emerged in children aged two to 12 years of age.
Although no child has died, a small number have needed a liver transplant.
A transplant is a serious development and will mean the children will face having to take drugs for the rest of their lives to suppress their immune systems.
In the UK, hepatitis viruses have been ruled out as a cause of the illness.
It is speculated the outbreak might be triggered by a delayed reaction to Covid-19.
It could also be related to a separate infection which is now spreading after pandemic restrictions were eased.
Investigations are under way into whether the fact very young children who would normally be exposed to viruses in early life, but were shielded during lockdown, are now more susceptible to infections.
The symptoms to look out for include a yellowing of the skin, discoloured urine or faeces, itchy skin, nausea and abdominal pain.
The aftermath of Covid-19 lockdowns in terms of resilience against infection remains unclear, particularly for younger children who had been closeted away from the normal viruses and bugs they would come in contact with early in life.
Public Health Scotland said no clear connection between the cases has been identified.
Normal hygiene measures, such as good handwashing and respiratory hygiene, can reduce the spread of the disease.
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