The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is investigating whether adenoviruses or Covid infection could be behind an increase in child hepatitis cases, it has said.
However, it stressed that there is ‘no link’ between the rise in child liver inflammation and the Covid vaccine – as none of 74 affected children had been vaccinated.
Last week, UKHSA announced that officials are investigating an increase in unexplained hepatitis in young children, with 60 cases in children under 10 in England and 11 cases in young children in Scotland under investigation.
In an update issued yesterday, it said that investigations are continuing into 74 cases of hepatitis in children since January 2022 ‘where the usual viruses that cause infectious hepatitis (hepatitis A to E) have not been detected’.
Of these confirmed cases, 49 are in England, 13 are in Scotland and the remainder are in Wales and Northern Ireland.
UKHSA said: ‘One of a number of potential causes under investigation is that a group of viruses called adenoviruses may be causing the illnesses.
‘However, other possible causes are also being actively investigated, including coronavirus (Covid-19), other infections or environmental causes.’
It added that there is ‘no link to the Covid-19 vaccine’ as ‘none of the currently confirmed cases in the UK has been vaccinated’.
Adenoviruses do not ‘typically’ cause hepatitis but it is a ‘known rare complication’, UKHSA said.
Director of clinical and emerging infections at UKHSA Dr Meera Chand said: ‘We are working swiftly with the NHS and public health colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to investigate a wide range of possible factors which may be causing children to be admitted to hospital with liver inflammation known as hepatitis.
‘One of the possible causes that we are investigating is that this is linked to adenovirus infection. However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.’
She reiterated that UKHSA is urging parents and guardians to be ‘alert’ to hepatitis symptoms such as jaundice and to contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns.
In 2020, a UK-led study confirmed that a rare inflammatory condition in children existed as a result of Covid, and was distinct from Kawasaki disease, of which it bore similar characteristics.