Hepatitis C: What is the virus and how can it be treated?
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Cases of hepatitis, a condition that affects the liver and may occur for a number of reasons, is increasing in children. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recently detected “higher than usual rates” of liver inflammation, which can occur in children as a result of several viral infections. More than 70 cases have been reported in the UK.
Of the confirmed UK cases, 49 are in England, 13 are in Scotland and the remainder are in Wales and Northern Ireland.
It says: “One of a number of potential causes under investigation is that a group of viruses called adenoviruses may be causing the illnesses.
“However, other possible causes are also being actively investigated, including coronavirus (COVID-19), other infections or environmental causes.”
There is no link to the COVID-19 vaccine, as none of the currently confirmed cases in the UK has been vaccinated.
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The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said cases of hepatitis had been identified in a number of European countries, though did not outline exactly how many cases were found.
The World Health Organization said under five had been found in Ireland, and three had been found in Spain.
The organisation suggested that the detection of more cases in the coming days was likely.
In the US, Alabama’s public health department said nine cases have been found in children aged one to six.
The UK government says hepatitis symptoms include:
- Dark urine
- Pale, grey-coloured poo
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Muscle and joint pain
- A high temperature
- Feeling and being sick
- Feeling unusually tired all the time
- Loss of appetite
- Tummy pain
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, said investigations for a wide range of potential causes are underway, including any possible links to infectious diseases.
She said: “We are working with partners to raise awareness among healthcare professionals, so that any further children who may be affected can be identified early and the appropriate tests carried out.
“This will also help us to build a better picture of what may be causing the cases.
“We are also reminding parents to be aware of the symptoms of jaundice – including skin with a yellow tinge which is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes – and to contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns.”
Indeed, the NHS says: “See your GP if you have any persistent or troublesome symptoms that you think could be caused by hepatitis.”
The World Health Organization said there are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.
A WHO study found that an estimated 4.5 million premature deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through vaccination, diagnostic tests, medicines and education campaigns.
WHO’s global hepatitis strategy aims to reduce new hepatitis infections by 90 percent between 2016 and 2030.
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