LONDON ( Associated Press) – Scientists are investigating a strange spike in liver disease among children in the United Kingdom, looking into whether there is a link between the cause and affected youth.
The UK’s Health Protection Agency said this week that public health workers are investigating 74 cases of hepatitis, or liver inflammation, detected in children since January.
The common viruses that cause infectious hepatitis were not found in the cases, and scientists and doctors are looking into other possible causes, including COVID-19, other viruses, and environmental factors.
While some types of hepatitis are mild and do not require treatment, other forms of the disease can become chronic and fatal.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said doctors in other countries should also report possible infections if the outbreak is not limited to Britain. It said doctors should be on the lookout for children with symptoms including jaundice and vomiting and stomach problems.
The European agency said the majority of cases involved children between the ages of 2 and 5. It said some of the children had suffered acute liver failure and “a small number required liver transplants.” It said there were no travel links between the affected children.
British officials said none of the affected children had been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and denied any link to COVID-19 vaccines.
“One of the possible reasons we are investigating is that it is associated with adenovirus infection,” said Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at the UK Health Protection Agency.
Adenoviruses are common viruses that cause problems such as pink eye, sore throat or diarrhea. They are often spread between people and by touching contaminated surfaces.
“The current crop of hepatitis cases in children under the age of 10 is very unusual,” Will Irving, Professor of Virology at the University of Nottingham, said in a statement.
He added that adults are more prone to serious illness from hepatitis, and children are usually not affected by it.