Hepatitis: Dr Hilary Jones outlines the main symptoms
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In children who have presented with hepatitis, “symptoms often start with vomiting and diarrhoea”, said Dr Hilary. This then leads to jaundice and liver damage. While 114 cases are currently under investigation, the sudden spike in hepatitis is believed to be the result of an adenovirus. Dr Hilary explained that while we see this type of virus “quite often”, it could be a new variant.
“Although no genomic sequencing confirms that,” the doctor said live on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Adenovirus typically causes respiratory symptoms, such as those seen in coughs and colds, in addition to gastroenteritis.
Dr Hilary also theorised that the surge in viral hepatitis “could be because of kids being away from schools” during the lockdowns.
As such, children were not exposed to the virus when younger, meaning they do not have enhanced immunity against the infection.
“Any sort of jaundice, itchy skin, dark urine, extreme fatigue should [be] reported to a GP immediately,” said Dr Hilary.
Children who are presenting with such symptoms should get “further help” from a medical professional.
If this means demanding to see the doctor face-to-face, then “absolutely” do so, encourages Dr Hilary.
The NHS listed symptoms of hepatitis:
- Muscle and joint pain
- A high temperature
- Feeling unusually tired all the time
- A general sense of feeling unwell
- Loss of appetite
- Tummy pain
- Pale, grey-coloured poo
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice).
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The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said: “The cases are predominantly in children under five years old.”
Children presented with initial symptoms of gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and nausea) followed by the onset of jaundice.
The UKHSA noted: “The usual viruses that cause infectious hepatitis (hepatitis A to E) have not been detected.”
Ten children, so far, have received a liver transplant due to the infection.
While work is underway to pinpoint the exact cause, one avenue can be ruled out.
“There is no link to the coronavirus vaccine,” the UKHSA noted, as all the infected children had not been vaccinated.
Routine NHS and laboratory data show that common viruses circulating in children are currently higher than in previous years.
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, commented on the situation.
“Information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this rise in sudden onset hepatitis in children is linked to adenovirus infection,” she said.
“However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.”
To help curb the spread of the virus, normal hygiene measures should be adhered to.
Precautions include thorough hand washing and not socialising when feeling sick.
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