Mystery Liver Illness Spreads in Europe and US; First Child Death Reported, WHO Yet to Reveal More Details

At least one person has died from a strange liver illness outbreak that has been infecting children in Europe and the United States. Up until now 169 cases of "acute hepatitis of unknown origin" are confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO has not specified the country where the death occurred. However, the age of the affected children was reported to be between one month to 16 years. As many as 17 of those suffering from the illness needed urgent liver transplant.

"It is not yet clear if there has been an increase in hepatitis cases, or an increase in awareness of hepatitis cases that occur at the expected rate but go undetected," WHO said in a statement.

Adenovirus Particles
A transmission electron micrograph captures new adenovirus particles assembling in honeycomb-shaped arrays in an infected cell in one of the Smyth lab’s experiments James Smyth and Patrick Calhoun

Medical professionals are of the opinion that the rise in these cases might be associated with a virus that is usually correlated with common colds. Research is still in progress before a definite cause can be ascertained. Liver infections are known to include symptoms like jaundice, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

The virus has been identified in at least 74 of the cases detected as remarked by the World Health Organization, "while adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent." The experts announced that at least 20 of the children tested positive for Covid-19.

Adenoviruses have also been linked to hepatitis in children, mostly in those who have weak immune systems.

The WHO was informed of this mysterious illness early this month when they got to know that 10 children in Scotland were diagnosed with liver problems. While one got sick in January and the nine others in March. All of them became severely ill and were diagnosed with hepatitis after being taken to the hospital.

WHO headquarters in Geneva Wikimedia Commons

The WHO officials have in a previous statement announced that these cases are likely to observe a rise in the coming months, "given the increase in cases reported over the past one month and enhanced case search activities, more cases are likely to be reported in the coming days."

With the rise of these cases, WHO has announced that affected countries have begun strengthening their monitoring of hepatitis in children to curb the spread of the infection.

Related topics : Coronavirus