Cases of liver inflammation with no apparent cause in children are still being reported in the UK, with a total of 251 last week.
This is an increase of 11 cases since the country’s last official update, published on June 9. The vast majority of affected children live in England (180), with 32 residents in Scotland, 17 in Wales and 22 in Northern Ireland.
The UK Health Security Agency, which publishes regular updates on the disease, says the increase in new cases each week appears to be slowing.
Worldwide, about 650 suspected cases had been reported to the World Health Organization as of May 26. The agency has not yet published an international update.
The disease is still considered very rare, but the consequences can be serious. A dozen children in the UK have so far required a liver transplant after developing symptoms.
While no children are known to have died from the disease in the country, at least nine may have died worldwide.
Experts aren’t sure why cases of acute hepatitis in children have risen in recent months, but investigations are underway. British scientists think a type of virus called an adenovirus may be related, but it’s too early to say for sure.
Adenoviruses can cause a wide variety of illnesses, including the common cold.
Some conspiracy theorists have staged the suggestion that Covid-19 vaccines could be behind the cases, but the vast majority are in children who are too young to have received the injections.
The UK cases usually occur in children under 5 years of age. It often causes symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, followed by jaundice.
‘Very rare’ disease in children
UKHSA incident director Dr Alicia Demirjian said parents should not be “too concerned” as hepatitis remains “very rare” in children.
“Maintaining normal hygiene measures, including making sure children wash their hands well regularly, is good practice year-round. It helps reduce the spread of common infections, including adenovirus,” she added.
“We continue to remind everyone to be alert for the signs of hepatitis — especially jaundice. Look for a yellow tint in the whites of the eyes — and talk to your doctor if you’re concerned.”