Mystery outbreak in kids continues

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'Acute' hepatitis confirmed in 10-month-old baby as mystery outbreak in kids continues

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The baby has tested negative for the common viruses known to cause hepatitis as health experts are increasingly confused by the cause and severity of cases in the worldwide outbreak

 A 10-month-old baby has contracted "acute" hepatitis in one of the youngest cases to date of a mysterious worldwide outbreak. 

Singapore officials have confirmed the infant's diagnosis and are now investigating to see if the youngster presents similar symptoms to other children with the liver inflammation illness.

Lab tests found the baby was negative for the common viruses known to cause hepatitis - type A, B, C and E viruses - according to Singapore's Ministry of Health.

 The child did contract Covid in December, but there is so far no established link between coronavirus and acute hepatitis although it has been proposed as a theory. 

At least one child has died and dozens of others have needed liver transplants in the outbreak of the disease that has struck over a dozen countries in recent weeks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has received reports of cases in the UK, Ireland, Israel, the USA, France, Denmark, Belgium, Romania, Spain, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Japan and now Singapore.

Canada is also investigating a number of cases to see if they are linked to the ongoing outbreak.

The children affected by hepatitis range from a month old to 16 years old.

The UK Health Security Agency has identified 34 confirmed hepatitis cases in children under 10 since Monday, bringing the country's total number to 145 . Ten of these children have received a liver transplant but none have died of the disease.

A small number of children over the age of 10 are also being investigated.

The cause of this year's outbreak remains a mystery, but investigators are studying a family of pathogens called adenoviruses that are responsible for a range of illnesses, including the common cold.

 The WHO said an adenovirus had been detected in at least 74 of the cases, while Covid-19 had been found in 20 others. 

Hepatitis does not frequently occur in children but is not necessarily rare, but what has concerned healthcare professionals is the severity of the disease in such young and otherwise healthy children.

The number of liver transplants needed in the recent outbreak is unprecedented.

Paediatric liver expert Saul Karpen says approximately 10% of the young transplant recipients he treats have a disease that was not caused by one of the recognised liver viruses

"The balance between alarm and concern here is real," he added.

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