Fears Covid or a cold could be triggering ‘mini-epidemic’ of hepatitis in kids

Covid lockdowns and cold-like viruses are feared to be down to the ‘mini-epidemic’ of hepatitis cases in kids, experts have warned.

Hepatitis is unusual in children, but 74 cases have now been detected across the UK.


Medics are currently investigating the cause of a hepatitis outbreak in the UKCredit: Getty

Earlier this month it was reported that 60 cases had been identified in England in children under the age of 10.

Medics at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said they are working with public health experts across the four nations.

Experts have said there are many possible causes of the illness, ranging from groups of viruses to Covid lockdowns.

Prof Will Irving, Professor of Virology, University of Nottingham explained: “There are also a number of infections, mostly caused by viruses, which can cause inflammation of the liver.”

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The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are investigated a range of causes for the outbreak, such as adenoviruses, Covid-19, other infections and environmental causes.

While the experts are investigating possible ties to Covid-19, officials said there is ‘no link’ to vaccines as the children diagnosed with hepatitis did not have a jab.

Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that cause a range of mild illnesses and most people recover without any complications.

If you have caught a virus like this then you will likely experience symptoms such as colds, sickness and diarrhoea.

The viruses don’t causes hepatitis, but are a known side effect.

The UKHSA are also investigating links to the coronavirus and if the hepatitis outbreak could be a possible side effect.

Alastair Sutcliffe, a professor of general paediatrics at University College London said the Covid lockdowns may have made a difference to hepatitis case levels.

He told The Independent: “Non-A-to-E hepatitis is a rare condition and there does seem to be a mini-epidemic/kick-up in the number of cases at the present time.

“So what could be causing this? A random high is possible but seems unlikely.

“A consequence of the lockdown with sudden increased exposure to the causative agent in a non-immune population seems the most plausible explanation.”

As more cases of hepatitis have been identified, parents of young children have been urged to watch out for the key signs of the illness.

The 10 main hepatitis symptoms are:

  1. dark urine
  2. pale, grey-coloured poo
  3. itchy skin
  4. yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  5. muscle and joint pain
  6. a high temperature
  7. feeling and being sick
  8. feeling unusually tired all the time
  9. loss of appetite
  10. tummy pain

Long-term hepatitis can also develop without any symptoms, until the liver fails completely, so it is sometimes only caught in blood tests.

It’s important to note that these 10 symptoms might not always been down to hepatitis and that if you child has unusual symptoms then you should see your GP.

Prof Irving added: “Hepatitis is unusual in children.  In relation to viral hepatitis, infection in childhood very rarely causes clinical disease (this is true of most virus infections – the disease is often much worse if caught as an adult).

“The current crop of cases of hepatitis in children under the age of 10 years is therefore very unusual. 

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“At present, a specific cause has not been identified, but investigations are ongoing to try and find the cause. 

“These include looking for toxins in samples from the patients (toxicology) and also trying to identify any virus which might be responsible.”

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