According to a new update from the World Health Organization (WHO), 35 countries in five regions of the world now have more than 1,010 possible cases of unexplained severe acute hepatitis or inflammation of the liver, in young pigeons, as the outbreak was first discovered on April 5.
so far, 22 children have diedand nearly half of the probable cases have been reported in Europe, where 21 countries have registered a total of 484 cases.
This includes 272 cases in the United Kingdom – 27 percent of the global total – followed by the Americas, whose regional total of 435 includes 334 cases in the United States, representing a third of cases worldwide.
The second highest caseload is in the Western Pacific (70 cases), Southeast Asia (19) and the Eastern Mediterranean (two cases).
Seventeen countries have reported more than five possible cases, but the true number of cases may be underestimateddue in part to the limited enhanced surveillance systems out there, the WHO said.
According to the latest assessment from the UN health agency, the risk of spreading this pediatric hepatitis outbreak is “moderate”†
Of the 100 probable cases with available clinical data, the most commonly reported symptoms were nausea or vomiting (in 60 percent of cases), jaundice (53 percent), general weakness (52 percent), and abdominal pain (50 percent).
The mean time between onset of symptoms and hospitalization was four days.
In laboratory tests, the WHO said that hepatitis A to E was not present in the affected children. Other pathogens such as the coronavirus have been detected in a number of cases, but data is incomplete, the UN health agency said.
Adenoviruses — which cause a wide variety of illnesses, such as the common cold, fever, sore throat and pneumonia — are “the most commonly detected pathogen” in cases of pediatric hepatitis, the WHO said.
In Europe, adenovirus was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing in 52 percent of childhood hepatitis (193/368) cases to date; in Japan it was found in only nine percent of cases (5/58).
Due to the limited surveillance of adenoviruses in most countries, it is quite possible that the actual number of childhood hepatitis cases may be higher than currently known.
To better understand where the outbreak is happening, the WHO has launched a global online survey, which will also help compare current cases with data from the past five years.
WHO shared the voluntary survey with nine global and regional networks of pediatric hepatologists specializing in problems related to the liver and other organs, along with other specialist physicians working in large national units, requesting aggregated data as part of the global inquiry into events.