Update on the ongoing investigation into hepatitis in children

24 May 2022

Article: 56/2001

On 20 May 2022, Public Health Scotland (PHS) issued an update on the active investigation into cases of sudden onset hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children aged ten years and under, with 26 identified cases reported in Scotland since onset in January 2022. The total number of cases identified in the UK is now 197, with all children affected presenting to health services between January 2022 and 16 May 2022. The latest technical briefing highlights that investigations increasingly suggest the adenovirus is one of the leading causes of the higher than usual rates of hepatitis in children.   

As of 19 May 2022, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported 125 cases in 14 EU or EEA countries, and at least a further 313 cases worldwide, outside the UK, EU and EEA. There have been 14 reported deaths worldwide.

Jaundice and vomiting are the most common symptoms experienced by the children affected. If a child shows signs of jaundice, where there is a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes or on the skin, then parents should contact their GP or other healthcare professional. Other symptoms can include dark urine, pale grey coloured poo, itchy skin, muscle and joint pains, tiredness, feeling sick, a high temperature, loss of appetite and stomach pain.    

The usual viruses that cause infectious hepatitis, hepatitis A to E, have not been detected, while there is no evidence of any link to the COVID-19 vaccine. The majority of cases are in children under five years old, who are too young to have received the vaccine.   

PHS advise that the current risk to children of severe hepatitis remains low. Furthermore, parents and caregivers are encouraged to ensure children practice good hand and respiratory hygiene, in order to help reduce the spread of common infections.   

Source: PHS, 20 May 2022