WHO reports children experiencing symptoms of hepatitis of unknown origin

April 28, 2022

… there have been continuing further reports of cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin among young children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in a report on increased cases of what appears to be hepatitis in children ages 16 and younger. However, the children have not tested positive for the virus that causes hepatitis.
  • Background: On April 5, the WHO reported 10 cases of children who were presenting symptoms of acute hepatitis (hepatitis = inflammation of the liver) in Scotland. However, testing showed none of the cases linked to a virus that causes viral hepatitis (A, B, C, D or E). Three days later, 64 more cases had been identified across the United Kingdom.
  • The children in these cases have experienced various symptoms including jaundice (yellowing of the skin), stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea and increased levels of liver enzymes; most cases have not presented with a fever.
  • On Monday, the WHO reported that there have now been at least 169 cases reported from across 11 countries, including the United States (9 cases), United Kingdom (114 cases) and Italy (4 cases).
  • 44% of cases have tested positive for adenovirus — a virus that can cause stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory illness; the WHO notes, however, that the type of adenovirus currently implicated does not typically cause severe hepatitis in children who were otherwise generally healthy. 11% of cases were children who were co-infected with both the virus that causes COVID-19 and the adenovirus.

Why It Matters: So far, at least one death has been reported and 17 children have required a liver transplant. While the WHO notes that “adenovirus is a possible hypothesis,” they — and other leading health authorities, including the CDC — are continuing to investigate the increasing number of similar cases in children to find out the “causative agent” for these cases. For now, the WHO and CDC recommend general prevention measures such as washing hands frequently, avoiding those who are sick, and avoiding touching the nose, eyes and mouth.

Multi-Country — Acute, severe hepatitis of unknown origin in children (World Health Organization, April 25, 2022)

Acute Hepatitis and Adenovirus Infection Among Children — Alabama, October 2021–February 2022

CDC Alerts Providers to Hepatitis Cases of Unknown Origin (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Click HERE to learn more about adenoviruses from the CDC

What Do Hepatitis Symptoms Look Like in Children? (The New York Times)

by Jenna Lee,