CONCERNS of an outbreak of a mysterious type of hepatitis affecting children are mounting.
The outbreak is partly blamed on the weakening of Covid-19 restrictions and is proving to be a major health challenge post the pandemic.
Europe, which has the most eased restrictions, is the epicentre of the cases of the hepatitis of unknown aetiology.
The United Kingdom reported that its cases have shot up to 240 since the first case was spotted in January.
England has the highest number of these cases, with 170 cases reported.
Children aged under five are the most infected by the ailment, which has been linked to Covid-19.
Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, expressed a concern at the rising cases.
“We have seen an increase in hepatitis cases of unknown aetiology in children, with more than 400 cases now recorded in the World Health Organisation (WHO) European region,” she said.
Kyriakides was speaking at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) meeting on Emerging Threats – Hepatitis and Monkeypox this week.
In addition to the current strain of hepatitis, some 21 European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries have recently reported cases of monkeypox.
At present, there are about 900 cases in the region, and approximately 500 more cases have been reported worldwide.
“We need a coherent, well-coordinated European approach to these emerging threats,” said Kyriakides.
Europe has the most relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, despite it having the highest number of infections.
Of the 541,8 million cases globally, 199,2 million have been in Europe as of the time of publishing.
The first human case of monkeypox was identified in 1970, thus the emergence of the hepatitis of unknown origin among children is more puzzling.
The normal causes of the illness, namely hepatitis A,B,C,D and E, have been ruled out.
“So far, the five viruses that commonly cause hepatitis have not been detected in any of these cases,” Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general confirmed at the organisation’s most recent Covid-19 media briefing.
Laboratory tests identified that some of the children had adenovirus type 41, which is more likely to cause severe stomach illness in children.
However, adenovirus type 41 is not a common cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Adenoviruses are defined as common pathogens that typically cause mild respiratory symptoms.
They have become the major focus of investigations into the unexplained outbreak of hepatitis impacting minors.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, an important organ that regulates most chemical levels in the blood. – CAJ News