Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) is keeping a close eye on the puzzling spread of hepatitis in previously healthy children, which has left dozens needing life-saving liver transplants.
As many as 35 countries in five regions of the world have now reported more than 1,010 probable cases of unexplained severe acute hepatitis, or liver inflammation, in youngsters, since the outbreak was first detected on April 5.
“As of July 8, 2022, 35 countries in five WHO Regions have reported 1010 probable cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology in children, which fulfill the WHO case definition, including 22 deaths. Since the previous Disease Outbreak News published on June 24, 2022, 90 new probable cases and four additional deaths have been reported to WHO. Additionally, two new countries, Luxembourg and Costa Rica have reported probable cases,” according to a new update from the World Health Organization.
So far, 22 children have died, and almost half of the probable cases have been reported in Europe, where 21 countries have registered a total of 484 cases.
This includes 272 cases in the United Kingdom – 27 percent of the global total – followed by the Americas, whose regional total of 435 includes 334 cases in the United States, representing a third of cases worldwide. The next highest caseload is in the Western Pacific Region (70 cases), Southeast Asia (19), and the Eastern Mediterranean (two cases).
Seventeen countries have reported more than five probable cases, but the actual number of cases may be underestimated, in part owing to the limited enhanced surveillance systems in place, said WHO.
However, according to the UN health agency’s latest assessment, the risk of this pediatric hepatitis outbreak spreading is “moderate”.
In laboratory tests, WHO said that hepatitis A to E had not been present in the affected children. Other pathogens such as the coronavirus were detected in a number of cases, but the data is incomplete, the UN health agency said.