UK hepatitis cases rise to 197 but outbreak may have peaked

Health authorities say surge of new cases may be slowing

There has been a surge in hepatitis cases amongst young children across Britain and the rest of the world. PA.
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Scientists in the UK say outbreak of hepatitis among young children may have peaked as an investigation into the mysterious illness continues.

The UK Health Security Agency on Friday released its latest technical briefing on the outbreak, confirming that 197 children in the UK have fallen ill amid the unexplained surge in cases.

The UKHSA's report shows that new cases continue to rise, albeit at a slower pace.

“Potential reporting lags mean that the rate of new cases is uncertain, though the current rate is more consistent with plateauing than exponential growth,” the report says.

Research into the condition continues to suggest an association with adenovirus, a family of virus that can sometimes call the common cold.

Among the 197 UK cases, 170 have been tested for adenovirus and in 116, adenovirus has been detected, according to the report.

At least 600 children in at least 34 countries have developed cases of sudden severe liver inflammation, or acute hepatitis, for which doctors have no explanation. Six children have died.

Eleven children in Britain have had to have liver transplants.

Acute hepatitis is not usually seen in children, but in recent weeks doctors have observed an increase in cases involving liver inflammation among otherwise healthy children under 5.

The origin of the cases is still unknown, so it cannot be attributed to the most frequent variants of hepatitis (A, B, C, D or E) which are caused by an infection or an autoimmune effect.

Disease experts have not ruled out a link to prior Covid infection, but say the hepatitis cases are not caused by Covid vaccines

Dr Renu Bindra, senior medical adviser at UKHSA, said: “It’s important that parents know the likelihood of their child developing hepatitis is extremely low.

“However, we continue to remind everyone to be alert to the signs of hepatitis — particularly jaundice, look for a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes — and contact your doctor if you are concerned.

“Our investigations continue to suggest that there is an association with adenovirus infection, but investigations continue to unpick the exact reason for the rise in cases.”

Updated: May 20, 2022, 10:58 PM