Spain, Ireland report cases of mystery hepatitis in children first detected in UK

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Cases of the hepatitis first identified in children in the U.K. have now been found in Ireland and Spain, the World Health Organization said in a statement. 

Since the U.K. flagged the issue earlier this month, three cases were confirmed in Spain in children ranging from 22 months old to 13 years old, the WHO said. National authorities are looking into these cases. Fewer than five cases of confirmed or possible hepatitis have been reported in Ireland, where investigations are also ongoing.

The cause of the disease remains unclear. None of the usual viruses that cause hepatitis were detected.

The U.K. reported its first cases of severe hepatitis in children on April 5, and 74 cases have so far been found. The children’s symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin linked to liver disease. The children were usually up to 10 years old.

Six of those children required a liver transplant. As of April 11, no deaths had been reported among those cases, the WHO said, and one epidemiologically linked case was detected. 

The WHO noted that the U.K. “has recently observed an increase in adenovirus activity,” and that several children tested positive for adenovirus or the coronavirus or both — but it is not clear if there is any link with the hepatitis cases. 

The increase in case numbers seen in the U.K., together with more extensive surveillance activity, means that it is likely more cases of the hepatitis will be found before its cause is identified and appropriate control measures can be taken, the WHO warned.

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