Cases of hepatitis – a condition that affects the liver and may occur for a number of reasons – is increasing in children under 10. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recently detected higher than usual rates of liver inflammation, with approximately 60 cases under investigation in England and 11 in Scotland. The condition can occur in children as a result of several viral infections.
However, in the cases under investigation the common viruses that cause hepatitis have not been detected.
UKHSA is working swiftly with the NHS and public health colleagues across the UK to investigate the potential cause.
“We’re asking parents and carers to be vigilant for symptoms of jaundice in children as we’ve detected higher than usual rates of liver inflammation in children,” the health body wrote on Twitter.
There are approximately 60 cases under investigation in England and 11 cases in Scotland saw children sent home.
Doctor Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, said: “Investigations for a wide range of potential causes are underway, including any possible links to infectious diseases.
“We are working with partners to raise awareness among healthcare professionals, so that any further children who may be affected can be identified early and the appropriate tests carried out. This will also help us to build a better picture of what may be causing the cases.
“We are also reminding parents to be aware of the symptoms of jaundice – including skin with a yellow tinge which is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes – and to contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns.”
Hepatitis symptoms include:
- Dark urine
- Pale, grey-coloured poo
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Muscle and joint pain
- A high temperature
- Feeling and being sick
- Feeling unusually tired all the time
- Loss of appetite
- Tummy pain.
Health managers in Scotland described the speed and severity of the spread as “unusual”.
Cases have been diagnosed across the country in Lanarkshire, Tayside, Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Fife.
There are currently no clear causes and no obvious connection between them, Public Health Scotland (PHS) said.
Doctor Nicholas Phin, PHS director of public health, said their investigation was in its early stages.