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Hepatitis Outbreak: Severe hepatitis spreading among children around the world, is adenovirus the reason? understand

Kingston upon Hull (UK): As of 21 April, 169 cases of ‘severe hepatitis of unknown type’ in children have been reported in 12 countries around the world, with the UK having the highest number of 114 cases. Many of the victims are under the age of 10. The health professional is most concerned about the severity of the disease in these young people who are generally considered healthy. Of these, 17 children required liver transplantation, while one child died after liver failure.

The number of transplant cases this time is much higher as compared to the same period last years. These latest figures are unprecedented and have so far only been partially explained. There is also a suspicion that it is an infection spread by adenovirus. According to the UK Health Protection Agency, adenovirus is most common in the UK and of the 53 people tested, 40 have been found to have the infection. The agency said that ‘investigations suggest that the increase in severe hepatitis cases may be related to adenovirus, but other causes are also being actively explored.’

What is adenovirus?
Adenoviruses are a large group of viruses that can extensively infect animals as well as humans. They got this name from adenoids (blisters). There are at least seven types of adenoviruses. Two of these types have genetic variants. Just like we see in corona virus and other viruses. Adenovirus causes a person to suffer from mild illness most of the time. Some species of this virus cause respiratory diseases, including croup in children and infants.

The outbreak of severe hepatitis in children is known as the adenovirus subtype 41. So far at least 74 cases of this virus have been reported. In this, the patient suffers from many diseases. In children and adults with healthy immune systems, adenoviruses cause only little trouble, which can result in a disease within a week or two. Viral hepatitis infection caused by adenovirus was previously considered only a rare disease. Given the number of cases and the severity of the illness in children, scientists are urgently investigating the causes of the outbreak. Therefore, until scientists reach a conclusion, only speculation can be made about this serious infection of hepatitis.

(Sherrill Walter, Lecturer in Biomedical Science, University of Hull)


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