We have united with the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation in response to a sudden increase in severe hepatitis cases in children in the UK.
Since 1st January 2022, there have been over 160 confirmed cases of severe hepatitis reported in children aged 16 and under in the UK. At least eleven children have undergone liver transplant following diagnosis with the condition.
Dr Tassos Grammatikopoulos, chair of UK’s paediatric Liver Steering Group: “The widespread coverage of this story is alarming for parents but it is important to remember that cases of severe hepatitis in children are extremely rare and there is heightened surveillance taking place in the clinical community in response.
“Parents should be on the lookout for symptoms which include sudden onset of severe diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice. In addition, protecting your child from viruses including regular handwashing, will reduce their chance of catching a virus that could lead to further complications,”
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver which is most commonly caused by a viral infection. The five main viral classifications are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E but in the children assessed so far, the cause of hepatitis is not linked to hepatitis A to E.
The UKHSA is currently working with NHS and public health colleagues across the UK to investigate the potential cause. One of the potential theories is that these cases are linked to adenovirus, a common virus that can spread from person-to-person causing respiratory symptoms, vomiting and diarrhoea in children.
Dr Tassos Grammatikopoulos continues: “There has been a lot of speculation about the causes but no evidence has confirmed any of the current theories. We are working together with health agencies to find the cause.”
Katherine Myles, interim chief executive of Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF) commented: “Children's Liver Disease Foundation is concerned to see a rise in cases of child hepatitis and we are supportive of our partners in clinical and research settings who are treating children and trying to understand and address this outbreak.
“Although we are seeing only a small number of cases, we know that it can be an overwhelming and frightening experience for the whole family when a child suddenly becomes unwell. We would encourage any family who is affected by this outbreak to contact us to access CLDF's specialist family support for children and parents who have just received a liver disease diagnosis. “
Pamela Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust adds: “We are concerned to hear about the increase in hepatitis cases among children. While we are not seeing cases of this type of hepatitis among adults, the situation is being carefully monitored. We are keen to unite with partners so that we can raise awareness and children at risk can be identified early and tested. We also support any research into the causes and potential treatments so that further cases can be prevented or detected early and treated effectively.”