Mysterious global HEPATITIS outbreak creeps closer to Australia – here’s what to watch for

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A mind-boggling outbreak of hepatitis affecting children and spreading around the world has moved closer to Australia with new cases reported in Asia.

The origin of the outbreak is unknown, but there are now more than 169 cases of affected children in Europe and America.

The acute liver disease has now been discovered in Japan closer to Australia, while Canada is investigating similar cases. The children are between 1 month and 16 years old and most had not been vaccinated against Covid-19, which excludes a link between the vaccines and hepatitis.

The leading theory is a viral infection, likely with a strain of the adenovirus — a family of common viruses that can cause cold symptoms, including fever and sore throat.

One type of adenovirus often causes acute gastroenteritis, and there have been reports of it causing hepatitis in immunocompromised children, but never before in healthy children.

The World Health Organization reported that the adenovirus was found in at least 74 of infant hepatitis cases worldwide, while 20 cases had Covid-19. There were another 19 cases co-infected with Covid-19 and the adenovirus.

Professor Peter Collignon (pictured) is an Australian microbiologist and infectious disease expert

Professor Peter Collignon (pictured) is an Australian microbiologist and infectious disease expert

Public Health Scotland director Jim McMenamin said work is underway to determine whether the adenovirus in question has mutated to cause a more serious disease, or if it could be causing the problems ‘along’ with another virus, including possibly SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Infectious disease expert Professor Peter Collignon said children who were not exposed to typical viruses as a result of two years of Covid lockdowns could be at risk for the condition.

“If you get infections at a very young age, you seem to have better immune protection,” he told the Daily Mail Australia.

Professor Collignon warned of the key signs families should look out for, saying the disease causes a range of unpleasant symptoms, from dark urine to fatigue and joint pain.

“Hepatitis is basically inflammation of the liver, so your color turns yellow, the whites of your eyes turn yellow and you often feel unwell,” Professor Collingnon told the Daily Mail Australia.

The yellowing of the skin and eyes, also called jaundice, is caused by higher levels of bilirubin, also associated with the darkening of urine.

“If someone has hepatitis, the only way to find out is by taking a blood test, but what makes you suspicious is that they will feel unwell, they will have a yellow cast to the whites of their eyes and that their urine is gone. a darker color.’

The best way to protect your family, Professor Collingnon said, is to make sure children follow good hygiene practices, such as washing their hands (pictured) before eating.

The best way to protect your family, Professor Collingnon said, is to make sure children follow good hygiene practices, such as washing their hands (pictured) before eating.

The best way to protect your family, Professor Collingnon said, is to make sure children follow good hygiene practices, such as washing their hands (pictured) before eating.

Among the varieties of the disease – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E – some are transmitted from blood to blood, others can spread through the respiratory system like Covid.

Types A and E travel by the ‘faecal-oral route’ where they can spread as cholera via fecal material, fingers, food and even floodwaters.

Professor Collingnon said that if the current hepatitis strain circling the world comes from an adenovirus, it could be spread through the fecal-oral route or the respiratory route.

“It could be a mixture, but we don’t know enough about this particular species that may or may not cause it,” he said.

Professor Collingnon believes that in the short term the best protection for families with young children is to stay away from others who are sick and maintain good hygiene standards.

“The bottom line is that you should always have good hygiene practices,” he said.

“It means washing your hands before eating and avoiding contaminated water… that reduces your risk of fecal-oral transmission.”

‘The main thing about the respiratory system is to stay away from people who are sick and who spend more time outside than inside.’

Children in particular seem prone to the disease after years of Covid-19 restrictions (stock image)

Children in particular seem prone to the disease after years of Covid-19 restrictions (stock image)

Children in particular seem prone to the disease after years of Covid-19 restrictions (stock image)

Health officials in the UK have been investigating 108 cases of sudden-onset hepatitis in children since the beginning of the year – eight were so sick they had a liver transplant, the BBC reported.

The European Center for Disease Control also said a number of cases of childhood hepatitis have been detected in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain. There are also nine new cases in the US.

Professor Collignon said there has not yet been a spike in hepatitis infections among Australian children, but warned ‘it is very possible it could happen’.

Late-stage exposure to adenoviruses can cause children's immune systems to overreact and cause hepatitis (stock image)

Late-stage exposure to adenoviruses can cause children's immune systems to overreact and cause hepatitis (stock image)

Late-stage exposure to adenoviruses can cause children’s immune systems to overreact and cause hepatitis (stock image)

“The BBC article is speculative – these are theories and they will be investigated,” he said.

“Hepatitis is a serious condition and we need to do something about it.”

Despite the international rise in hepatitis cases, Mr Collignon said the number of people with the condition is still very small, but urged parents to watch for symptoms.

“If anyone is concerned, see a doctor or go to the hospital,” he added.

HEPATITIS: GROUP OF VIRUSES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM?

Hepatitis is a broad term used to describe inflammation of the liver.

When the liver is damaged by viruses, alcohol, drugs, or overconsumption of other toxins, people can develop hepatitis.

Some people can get hepatitis because their immune systems stop working properly, although that situation is unusual.

The variants of hepatitis are A, B, C, D, and E. The symptoms of all five viruses can be similar, but the main difference is the way they are transmitted and the effects they have on health.

B, C, and D are serious blood-born viruses that can be fatal if left untreated. There is a vaccine against hepatitis B.

Hepatitis A and E are often spread when a person consumes food or drink contaminated with small particles of infected stool. Symptoms can be severe, but short-lived, and patients usually make a full recovery.

To avoid A and E, wash hands thoroughly and practice good hygiene.

Source: Hepatitis Australia

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