Nearly 170 children in 11 countries have been diagnosed with acute hepatitis in recent months. Photo by Mylene2401/Pixabay
A serious liver disease that’s struck hundreds of young children worldwide has caused the deaths of three children in Indonesia, bringing the global death toll to at least four.
Nearly 170 children in 11 countries have been diagnosed with acute hepatitis in recent months, and the World Health Organization has expressed concerns about its “unknown origin.”
Most of the ill children have been under the age of 10 and had no underlying health conditions. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain appear before affected children’s livers show signs of inflammation.
The three children in Indonesia died in hospitals in Jakarta last month after displaying some of these symptoms, along with fever, jaundice, convulsions and loss of consciousness, the country’s health ministry said in a statement Monday, CBS News reported.
“At the moment, the Health Ministry is investigating the cause of the acute hepatitis by running a full panel of virus tests,” said the ministry, which told parents to take their children to the hospital immediately if they showed any of the symptoms.
Britain has also experienced an “unexpected significant increase” in acute hepatitis cases among young, previously healthy children, according to the WHO. Other countries reporting cases include Israel, Spain, Denmark and Ireland.
And last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study on a cluster of cases in Alabama, where some of the nine children had also tested positive for a common pathogen called adenovirus 41, which can cause gastroenteritis in children, but “it is not usually known as a cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children,” the CDC said.
None of the affected children in Alabama died. However, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported last week that four pediatric cases of acute hepatitis had occurred in that state. Tragically, they included “two children who had severe outcomes, one liver transplant and one fatality.”
Meanwhile, the CDC has issued a nationwide health alert telling parents and healthcare providers to watch for symptoms and report any potential hepatitis cases without a known cause to local and state health departments.
“CDC is working with state health departments to see if there are additional U.S. cases, and what may be causing these cases,” the alert stated. “We continue to recommend children be up to date on all their vaccinations, and that parents and caregivers of young children take the same everyday preventive actions that we recommend for everyone, including washing hands often, avoiding people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth.”
Visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine for more on hepatitis.