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Cases of acute hepatitis in children rise globally as Spain sounds the alarm

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New data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) just days ago revealed that 650 probable cases of acute hepatitis in children have been reported from thirty-three countries, with 99 additional reported cases pending classification.

Identified cases are concentrated in five regions, including twenty-two countries from the European region, the United States of America, the Western Pacific region, South-East Asia region and the Eastern Mediterranean region. Figures from 27 May 2022 identified 222 from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland alone.

Spain has recorded 30 cases of acute hepatitis in children under 10 years old prompting its Ministry to investigate the causes of the illness and its unknown origins.

Six hundred and fifty cases have been reported in five main regions (Source: World Health Organization https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease-outbreak-news/item/DON-389)

On Friday, the Spanish Ministry said,

“It is necessary to continue intensive monitoring and continue investigations carried out to confirm or rule out whether there is an increase in cases of unknown hepatitis compared to what is expected.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO),

“Most of the reported cases appear to be unrelated and extensive epidemiological investigations are underway to identify common exposures, risk factors or links between cases.”

While confirmed unrelated cases continue to grow the WHO has advised its member states to,

“Identify, investigate and report potential cases fitting the case definition.”

While the WHO indicated the cases were of unknown aetiology or cause, it said that the cases reported between 5 April and 26 May 2022 are more clinically severe with a higher proportion of cases developing acute liver failure compared to previous cases of hepatitis detected in children.

According to the figures released, 75.4% of cases are in children under 5 years of age. Out of the 650 hepatitis cases, at least 38 (6%) children have required transplants, and 9 (1%) children have died.

Classification table of Hepatitis cases worldwide. Seventy-five per cent of cases are in children under 5. (Source: World Health Organization data- https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease-outbreak-news/item/DON-389

Latest data from a joint surveillance report by the WHO attributes that out of the 650 current cases 118 (18.5%) tested positive for covid.

In its report the WHO attempted to make connections between covid infection and referred that the ‘unvaccinated’ were highly represented in the identified hepatitis cases, determining that 63 (84.1%) cases of the 118 that tested positive for covid were unvaccinated.

Of the 118 (18.5%) returning positive covid results, serology results were only available for 26 (22.03%) cases.

Out of the 26 cases with available serology results for positive covid tests, the WHO determined that 63 (84.1%) of cases of the 118 cases that tested positive for covid were unvaccinated.

As child hepatitis cases climb, Spanish health authorities continue to investigate the potential and currently unknown causes of the cases of hepatitis amongst its child population.

Health authorities in the US are also investigating potential causes for the outbreak, with the Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) releasing a statement on May 18, 2022, issuing a nationwide alert as a result of the 216 cases reported across the US.

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