Update on the investigation into higher than usual rates of hepatitis in children
First published on 27 May 2022
- Conditions and diseases
- Health protection
Ongoing investigations into cases of sudden onset hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children aged 10 and under have identified a further 5 cases since our previous report, bringing the total number of cases identified in Scotland to 31.
The total number of cases identified in the UK is now 222. All the children affected presented to health services between January 2022 and 25 May 2022.
Overall, only a very small number of children aged less than 10 years have been affected and the current risk of children in the general population contracting severe hepatitis remains low.
The most common symptoms experienced by the children affected are jaundice and vomiting.
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 Health Care 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.
There is no evidence of any link to the COVID-19 vaccine. The majority of cases are under 5 years old, and are too young to have received the vaccine.
The latest Technical Briefing, published 19 May 2022, highlights that investigations increasingly suggest that adenovirus – a virus that causes a cold or flu-like illness - is one of the leading causes of the higher than usual rates of hepatitis in children. Adenovirus is the most frequently detected virus in samples tested and a formal epidemiological study is underway.
Public Health Scotland (PHS) continues to encourage parents and care-givers to ensure children practice good hand and respiratory hygiene to help reduce the spread of common infections, like adenoviruses.
Responding to the slight increase in figures in Scotland, Dr Jim McMenamin, Head of Health Protection (Infection Services) at PHS, reiterated:
“Our update today continues to show a small increase in cases in Scotland, which is why we are reminding parents to take simple steps which can help prevent common infections such as adenoviruses.
“Adenoviruses are commonly passed from person to person and by touching contaminated surfaces, as well as through the respiratory system. By showing young children how to wash their hands and supervising them to ensure they do it properly, we can help prevent the potential spread of infections.
"We continue to work with NHS and public health colleagues across the UK to investigate other potential causes and we will issue further updates as the situation develops”.