Mystery Liver Disease Seen In Children In The U.S. And Europe

Marissa Newby
2 min readApr 19, 2022

A small, but telling, number of cases of pediatric hepatitis have been documented in the U.S. and parts of Europe. So far, there are 74 cases in the U.K., with similar cases in Spain, Ireland and the U.S.. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), case reporting will likely gain momentum in the coming days are doctors face new challenges in evolving infectious diseases.

The WHO released information on the disease earlier this month and cases are being tracked. The belief is that as more surveillance is performed and symptoms in the pediatric population whose caregivers seek help for their ailments, more information will be gathered for this anomaly. Epidemiologically, there is a possible association with children who have adenovirus, but it is too early to tell. There is also a possible link to adenovirus and co-circulating adenovirus. The symptoms are very similar and each child identified as having this form of acute hepatitis has tested positive for either adenovirus or coronavirus, and in some cases positive for both.

Symptoms and Population

Symptoms have been similar to hepatitis, generally. Children under the age of 10 are most effected in these early cases. The symptoms have included jaundice (or yellowing of the skin and eyes), diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In addition to these symptoms, the children effected had also been experiencing the typical adenovirus symptoms as well.

Adenovirus carries symptoms that are similar to the common cold. Caregivers reported fever, sore throat, cough, congestion, sneezing and runny nose. Adenovirus can also cause pneumonia, bronchitis and acute gastroenteritis. The symptoms of adenovirus range from tummy upset to respiratory problems. Adenovirus has historically been associated, although rarely, with liver dysfunction, bladder inflammation and, even more rarely, neurological disease.

Children in particular are usually most effected by adenovirus outbreaks. However, adenovirus can occur in any populated area, this includes hospitals, schools, nursing homes and long term care facilities, churches and any place where people gather in groups.

Epidemiological Information

In the U.S. so far, there have been 10 reported cases located in Alabama. In the UK, 74 cases have been reported, along with 3 cases in Scotland. Information is still being reported from Ireland, but the cases are below 5 there. 6 of the children in the UK have required liver transplants. No cases have been fatal, thus far. None of the children effected have underlying health conditions or immune compromise historically.

None of the children reported as having acute hepatitis have traveled out of their countries of residence. Other factors are being explored, to include food, water, exposure, toxicology and other microbiological testing. It is too soon to safely say that these cases are directly, and solely, linked to adenovirus or coronavirus, but there is a strong correlation.

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Marissa Newby

Blogger focusing on Emergency Management, Safety, CBRNE matters and Conflict