Cases of hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children between 22 months and 13 years old in Ireland and the UK is on the rise since January 2022. According to the latest update on April 25, 2022 there were 145 reported cases in the UK: 108 cases have been reported in England, 17 in Scotland, 11 in Wales and 9 in Northern Ireland.

10 children have had to undergo liver transplants due to the virus. Other children have reported less severe symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems, as well as jaundice and elevated liver enzymes. However, lab testing has excluded what type of hepatitis the children have at this time. No children have died.

The UK has also recently had an influx of COVID-19 in the past few months, which has led to speculations of whether or not the rise in hepatitis cases is due to the coronavirus. However, not all children with hepatitis came back positive for COVID-19. 

hepatitis in young children

Symptoms of hepatitis in young children

  • dark urine
  • pale, grey-coloured poo
  • itchy skin
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high fever
  • feeling and being sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach pain

What can parents do?

“Normal hygiene measures, including thorough hand-washing and making sure children wash their hands properly, help to reduce the spread of many common infections, said Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA.

  • According to Cleveland Clinic, the number one way to protect yourself from hepatitis is by getting your child vaccinated. Although there is not a vaccine out for hepatitis C yet, both children and adults can receive the hepatitis A and B shot. 
  • Practice good hygiene: make sure to thoroughly wash both you and your children’s  hands after being out in a public setting, or in a contaminated area. 
  • Drink bottled water when traveling: hepatitis can be received through contaminated water, so if you are traveling to an area where you have a higher chance to receive the virus then you should avoid drinking water from the faucet. 
  • Be aware of contaminated needles: although most children are not around needles, it is still important to make sure that any used needles are not lying around the house or in an open area. Hepatitis can be transferred to individuals through used needles, so it is important to make sure that you do not reuse any needles or touch a needle that has been used by somebody else. 

Clinical and public health responses have been implemented by the WHO and the UK Health Security Agency to investigate how the spread of the illness has occurred. Until then, it is important to implement strategies for your family to stay safe from the hepatitis virus. 

Read also: What Is Paxlovid?

Hannah Walker is a health reporter at The Pavlovic Today.

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