Another 13 children in the UK have contracted the mysterious hepatitis disease that has been monitored in more than 20 countries.
There are now 176 cases of the fatal liver disease among children under the age of 10 in Britain, the majority (128) in England.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it was also investigating a “small number” of suspected cases in children over the age of 10.
It came when a child in Ireland became the latest victim of the outbreak, with a second child receiving a liver transplant.
The latest death is believed to bring the global death toll to nine, five of which are in the United States and three in Indonesia. There was none in Britain yet.
About 350 cases of “acute hepatitis of unknown origin” in children have been reported in 21 countries since April.
At least 26 young people needed liver transplants, according to the latest WHO update last week.
Experts have warned that the current cases may be the tip of the iceberg due to poor surveillance in some countries.
Scientists are baffled about the cause of this unusual illness, but the main theory is that the group of viruses that usually cause colds are causing it.
About 350 cases of “acute hepatitis of unknown origin” have been reported in children in 21 countries since April
The Irish Health Service (HSE) official did not disclose the age of the latest victim but said her cases were among children under the age of 12.
Since March, six children have been hospitalized with hepatitis in Ireland, which HSE claimed was “more than would normally be expected during this time period”.
HSE said none of the cases had been linked in Ireland nor had it been linked to any of the patients in the UK. Nobody has Covid, either.
Ireland is working closely with the World Health Organization and colleagues in the European Union and Britain to determine the cause of the disease.
Parents are advised to go to their GP if their child develops symptoms of hepatitis, which include pale gray stools and very dark urine or yellowing of the eyes and skin.
Common viruses that cause hepatitis: hepatitis A, B, C and E viruses; It has not been detected in any of the cases reported worldwide.
In its latest update on May 9, the World Health Organization said there had been 348 probable cases of hepatitis of unknown origin since the first case was reported in Scotland in April.
All cases were among children aged 11 months to five years, and “many” have tested positive for adenovirus.
The World Health Organization said the virus had not yet been identified in the liver tissue samples analyzed, and therefore, it could be a coincidence rather than a causal factor.
In new guidelines this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has asked doctors who treat children with hepatitis to take liver samples for analysis.
US states with cases: The map above shows the 26 states that have confirmed or suspected cases of hepatitis according to the CDC. Massachusetts and Hawaii become the 25th and 26th states to reveal that they are investigating suspected cases (yellow), and Puerto Rico has also reported at least one case.
The analysis indicates that three-quarters of children with hepatitis in the UK have tested positive for adenoviruses.
Scientists are investigating whether the mutated strain of adenovirus has evolved to become more severe, or if a lack of social mixing during an epidemic weakens children’s immunity. They cannot rule out an old infection of Covid.
In a strange development last week, UK health chiefs are also investigating whether “dog exposure” is to blame.
The UK Health Services Authority (UKHSA) said last week that a “high” number of British children with hepatitis came from families who own dogs.
Officials have not explained how the dogs could be responsible, but they are known to carry adenovirus strains.
However, health officials have ruled out the Covid vaccine as a possible cause because the majority of sick British children have not been vaccinated due to their young age.
Hepatitis is usually rare in children, but experts have already found more cases in the UK since January than they would normally expect in a year.
Q&A: What is the global mysterious hepatitis outbreak and what’s behind it?
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection or liver damage from drinking alcohol.
Some cases resolve on their own, with no persistent problems, but some of them can be fatal, forcing patients to need a liver transplant to survive.
What are the symptoms?
People with hepatitis generally experience fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, and joint pain.
They may also suffer from jaundice – when the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow.
Why do experts care?
Hepatitis is usually rare in children, but experts have already discovered more cases in the current outbreak than they would normally expect within a year.
The cases are of “unknown source” and are also serious, according to the World Health Organization. It has caused up to two deaths and 18 liver transplants.
What are the higher theories?
Experts say the cases may be related to the adenovirus, which is commonly associated with the common cold, but more research is ongoing.
This, combined with Covid infection, could cause a spike in cases.
The World Health Organization reports that the adenovirus has been detected in at least 74 cases. At least 20 children have tested positive for the coronavirus.
British experts tasked with investigating the wave of disease believe the endless cycle of lockdowns may have played a contributing role.
The restrictions may have weakened children’s immunity due to reduced social contact, making them more at risk of contracting adenovirus.
This means that even “natural” adenoviruses can cause dangerous outcomes, because children do not respond to them as well as they did in the past.
Other scientists said it may have been the adenovirus that had acquired the “unusual mutations”.
This means that it could be more transmissible or more able to get around children’s natural immunity.
A new variant of Covid
UKHSA officials have included “a new type of SARS-CoV-2” in their working hypotheses.
Covid has caused hepatitis very rarely during the epidemic, although these cases have been of all ages and are not isolated in children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that environmental triggers are still being investigated as possible causes of disease.
This can include contamination or exposure to certain drugs or toxins.