by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE outbreak of a mysterious type of hepatitis afflicting children, which is partly blamed on the weakening of COVID-19 restrictions, is mounting.
It is proving a major health challenge post the pandemic.
Europe, which has the most eased restrictions yet with the most severe cases of COVID-19, is the epicentre of the cases of the hepatitis of unknown aetiology.
The United Kingdom (UK) has reported its cases have shot up to 240 since the first case was spotted in January.
England has the highest number of these cases, with 170 cases reported.
Children aged under five are the most infected by the ailment that has been linked to the COVID-19.
Globally, around 700 cases have been reported, with at least a dozen children dead and tens needing liver transplants.
Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, expressed the bloc’s worry at the rising cases.
“We have seen an increase in hepatitis cases of unknown aetiology in children, with more than 400 cases now recorded in the WHO (World Health Organisation) European region,” she said.
Kyriakides was speaking this week at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) meeting on Emerging Threats – Hepatitis and Monkeypox.
In addition to the current strain of hepatitis, some 21 European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries have recently reported cases of monkeypox.
At present, there are around 900 cases in the region and approximately 500 more cases have been reported worldwide.
“We need a coherent, well-coordinated European approach to these emerging threats,” Kyriakides said.
Europe has the most relaxed COVID-19 restrictions despite it having the highest number of infections.
Of the 541,8 million cases globally, 199,2 million have been in Europe as of the time of publishing.
The first human case of monkeypox was identified in 1970, thus the emergence of the hepatitis of unknown origin among children is more puzzling.
The normal causes of the illness, namely hepatitis A,B,C,D and E, have been ruled out.
“So far, the five viruses that commonly cause hepatitis have not been detected in any of these cases,” Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, confirmed at the organisation’s most recent COVID-19 media briefing.
Laboratory tests had identified that some of the children had adenovirus type 41, which is more likely to cause severe stomach illness in children.
However, adenovirus type 41 is not a common cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Adenoviruses are defined as common pathogens that typically cause mild respiratory symptoms.
They have become the major focus of investigations into the unexplained outbreak of hepatitis impacting minors.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, an important organ that regulates most chemical levels in the blood.
– CAJ News