Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver as a result of the interaction of viruses, toxins (drugs, toxins, etc.), autoimmune diseases or genetic diseases. Its main symptoms – fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and jaundice – often go away quickly in general. In rare cases, it can lead to kidney failure.
The United States is far from the only country affected by the phenomenon of unexplained hepatitis: dozens of cases have been identified across Europe, raising fears of a new epidemic. First reported in Scotland at the end of March, the number of cases recorded worldwide currently stands at 191 (111 in the UK, 55 in 12 other European countries, 12 in the US, 12 in Israel, and one in Japan). ), according to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). The affected children ranged in age from 1 month to 16 years, but most were less than 10 years old, and many were less than 5 years old. Nobody has comorbidities.
Instead of common viruses, adenoviruses are generally known to cause respiratory symptoms, conjunctivitis, or even digestive upsets. Oral-oral or respiratory transmission occurs, with epidemic peaks often occurring in winter and spring, less often in communities (nurseries, schools, etc.). Most people are infected before they reach the age of five. But their role in occult hepatitis is unclear.
“Currently, we believe an adenovirus may be the cause of these cases, but other environmental factors are still being studied,” said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main federal agency for public health in the United States. More specifically, the CDC refers to the so-called “type 41” adenovirus, which has hitherto been best known for causing acute gastroenteritis. If these adenoviruses are well identified as causes of hepatitis, they have so far only been in immunocompromised children.
After more than two years of pandemic gestures and barriers, the question of immune “religion” that would make some children more vulnerable has also been raised by some scientists without certainty.
On Thursday, the European Diseases Agency (ECDC) classified these unexplained cases of acute hepatitis as a “public health event” as a “public health concern”, while acknowledging that it was not able to accurately assess the risks. “Given the unknown etiology (cause of illness, editor’s note), children affected, and potential hazardous impact, this constitutes at this point a public health concern,” the center warns, in its first assessment of the overall risk since the onset of the disease.
This disease is extremely rare and evidence of human-to-human transmission remains unclear. Cases in the EU are scattered with an unclear trend.” The agency also notes that the risk to children in Europe “cannot be accurately estimated.” However, given the reported cases of acute liver failure, with cases requiring transplantation, the potential impact on children is considered high.”
The main ‘working hypothesis’ here is also that the disease is related to adenoviruses. According to this evidence, “adenovirus infection, which would be mild under normal circumstances, would result in more severe infection or immune-mediated liver injury.” Other causes, notably toxic, “remain the subject of investigations and have not been excluded but considered to be less plausible”, punctuated by the ECDC.
While most cases were discovered at the end of March, on April 15 the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert and urged the countries concerned to launch a major investigation in order to “establish the etiology of these cases and guide clinical and public health actions”. Pending the results of this work, the World Health Organization notes that regular hand washing and mask wearing can prevent contamination with adenovirus and other common infections.