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First Death Of A Child Reported In Mexico Due To Mysterious Severe Hepatitis: Things To Know

On Friday 20 May, the Mexican authorities confirmed the death of a child in the country from a severe form of hepatitis of unknown origin, making it the first death case in Latin America as cases of the infection spread globally.

The three-year-old child, who was born in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, was taken to a hospital in Mexico City but died this week, according to the Hidalgo Health Secretariat.

The state also reported the three other suspected cases under study.

What Does the Study Say?

According to a study published in the journal Lancet on 23 May 2022, no signs of hepatitis A, B, C, D and E have been found in children who have been exposed to the infection, however, around 72 per cent of these children were tested for adenovirus. [1]

Also, in the UK, all 18 subtyped cases were identified as adenovirus 41F, an uncommon subtype that is predominantly known to affect immunocompromised people and young children. Previously, adenovirus 41F has never been linked to severe acute hepatitis.

Adenoviruses are a family of viruses that can infect both animals and humans. They have around seven distinct species, which are further divided as per genetic variants (subtypes), similar to coronaviruses and other viruses.

The virus is known to cause mild illnesses in humans. Some species may cause severe diseases like conjunctivitis, gastroenteritis and croup, especially in young children and babies.

Does COVID-19 Have a Role In Causing The Mysterious Hepatitis?

As per the same study, COVID-19 was found in 18 per cent of reported cases in the UK, and 11 (11%) of 97 cases in England. The positive test result for COVID-19 was found on admission. Three children have tested positive within the eight weeks prior to admission.

The COVID cases of hepatitis were found in children who were young and not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination.

Clinical Symptoms Of Mysterious Hepatitis

To date, the clinical symptoms in children reported with the condition include: [2]

  • Inflammation of the liver
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Increased levels of liver enzymes.

Cases So Far

In an update report on Thursday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported 621 cases of mysterious hepatitis in children from 34 countries. The majority of the cases have been reported from the United States and the United Kingdom.

To Conclude

Acute hepatitis is uncommon in children; this mysterious hepatitis in recent weeks has caused an increase in cases that include acute hepatitis resulting in liver inflammation in otherwise healthy children who are under five years old. There are also reports of the deaths of six children worldwide.

As the cause of the hepatitis is still unknown, it cannot be attributed to its most common variants A, B, C, D or E or intoxication, or an autoimmune effect.

Direct links to COVID infection or to its vaccines have also been ruled out.

Story first published: Monday, May 23, 2022, 12:27 [IST]
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