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Health – Despite ongoing scientific investigations, the mystery remains. The growing concern about a form of acute hepatitis that affects children in many countries is not waning.
As of April 21, the World Health Organization has counted at least 169 cases spread across 11 European countries and the United States. This form of hepatitis, of unknown origin, affects children between the ages of one month and 16 years. While the majority of cases have been reported in the UK (114), two cases have been identified in France.
Currently, the preferred scientific path is that of adenoviruses. There are more than 50 immunologically distinct types of adenovirus, usually responsible for infections of the lungs and respiratory tract, which can cause colds and pneumonia in some cases.
However, adenovirus infection “does not fully explain the severity of the clinical picture”, notes the World Health Organization, leaving the door open to at least one other primary source. The World Health Organization, in its latest report on the progress of this epidemic, put forward three hypotheses to try to explain the emergence of this new form of hepatitis.
New adenovirus and consequences of Covid-19
According to the WHO, “Factors such as increased susceptibility to infection in young children after a reduced level of adenovirus prevalence during the Covid-19 epidemic, and the possible emergence of a new adenovirus, as well as SARS-CoV-2 co-infection, need further investigation.”
In short, an unknown adenovirus may be the cause of this epidemic. This respiratory virus causes vomiting and symptoms of a cold or conjunctivitis, but it rarely causes hepatitis. So it could be a new type of adenovirus, Scottish researchers explain in the journal Science: “A variant with a distinct clinical syndrome or a prevalent variant more commonly affecting young children more severely.”
The passage of Covid-19 can also worsen the immune system of children, and the onset of this is favored by hepatitis. After confinement, children are more vulnerable to adenoviruses because they had less exposure during this unprecedented period.
Moreover, the course of concomitant infection was not excluded, as evidenced by the numbers of tests performed on children with this new form of hepatitis. In fact, out of 169 children, 74 of them tested positive for adenovirus. Covid-19 was detected in 20 of those tested. “In addition, 19 co-infected patients with SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus were detected,” the World Health Organization notes in this report.
However, tracking of side effects from vaccines against Covid-19 is not yet supported. “The vast majority of infected children have not received the COVID-19 vaccine,” the UN agency says.
“It is very likely that more cases will be discovered before the cause is confirmed and more specific control and prevention measures can be implemented,” notes the WHO, indicating that it is working closely with the UK. from this epidemic.
For the specialized institution, “the priority is to identify the cause of these cases in order to further refine control and prevention measures. Common preventative measures against adenoviruses and other common infections include regular hand washing and respiratory hygiene.”
WHO also recommends testing on blood, serum, urine, stool and respiratory samples, as well as liver biopsy samples (when available) to improve ongoing investigations.
However, it does not appear that travel and trade restrictions with the UK or other countries where cases have been identified are necessary at this time. In addition to the 114 cases identified in children in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, there are so far 13 in Spain, 12 in Israel, 9 in the United States, 6 in Denmark, less than 5 in Ireland, and 4 in the Netherlands and Italy. 2 in France and Norway and 1 case in Romania and Belgium.
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