Hepatitis of unknown origin in children: first two cases detected in France

Less than a week after the World Health Organization (WHO) alerted dozens of children in the United Kingdom about cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin, but Spain, France are also now concerned. “Two cases of acute hepatitis, whose etiology is still undetermined, were reported by Lyon University Hospital,” Public Health France (SPF) said on Tuesday.

The two cases found in France involved children under the age of 10 and are being investigated by medical teams. But the SPF wants to be cautious: “Cases of acute hepatitis of undetermined etiology in children are not uncommon. The occurrence of these two cases is not unexpected and, at this stage, does not indicate an overabundance of cases in France. Considering the active search for cases, other reports can be expected in the coming days,” points out the public body.

According to the European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), “additional cases in children have been reported in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain.” Nine suspected cases have been identified in children aged 1 to 6 years in Alabama, United States, reports the ECDC. “Investigation into reporting of cases in all countries is ongoing. At present, the exact cause of hepatitis remains unknown,” writes the ECDC, but British investigators “consider an infectious cause most likely due to the clinical and epidemiological characteristics of the cases.” On Friday, the WHO said it had New reports are expected in the coming days and there have already been “fewer than five” cases in Ireland and three in Spain.

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no deaths recorded

Contacted by AFP, the ECDC was unable to state the number of cases by country. No deaths have been recorded but some British cases have required liver transplantation. According to the ECDC, “Laboratory examination of cases excluded viral hepatitis types A, B, C, D and E in all cases.” According to the United Nations organization, the United Kingdom initially reported 10 cases of severe hepatitis in Scotland to the WHO on 5 April, before reporting a total of 74 three days later.

In UK cases, “many cases showed signs of jaundice”. According to the ECDC, “some cases were reporting gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting in the past weeks.”

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