Two children in Cyprus have in recent months have contracted hepatitis (liver inflammation) of unknown origin, the health ministry said Thursday, adding that it continues monitoring the situation amid an uptick of similar cases in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In a press release, the ministry said the two children concerned were aged 4 and 5 and that they fell ill in November 2021 and March 2022, respectively.
It said it was using the definition of acute hepatitis of unknown origin or aetiology as used by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (Ecdc).
If parents notice symptoms in their children – general malaise, dark-coloured urine, discoloured faeces, jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eyes – they should contact their doctor.
The ministry advised basic hygiene: hand washing; avoiding contact with the nose, the eyes and mouth; covering the mouth with the elbow when about to cough or sneeze.
If children develop any of the aforementioned symptoms, they should stay home and avoid contact with others.
Regarding the recent increase in several countries of cases of acute hepatitis among children aged under 16, the ministry said that tests point to a specific type of adenovirus (type 41) as the most prevalent cause.
“It is noted that the usual hepatitis virus (types A through E) were not detected. Cases have been investigated since October 2021, and there is no confirmation of a correlation between these cases as a side-effect of a Covid-19 vaccine, given that the overwhelming majority of the children were unvaccinated.”
The ministry said it will continue to monitor the situation in collaboration with clinicians here.
According to the Ecdc, “viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. The most common hepatitis viruses in Europe are types A, B, C and E (commonly referred to as HAV, HBV, HCV and HEV).
“Even though their effects on the liver and the symptoms they produce can be similar, the severity and duration of the disease are determined by the virus that caused it. While HAV infection is typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water and causes an acute infection, hepatitis B and C usually occur as a result of contact with infected body fluids and can develop into a chronic infection. Together, HBV and HCV are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.”
Earlier this week the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that as of April 21, more than 160 cases of acute hepatitis in children had been tracked worldwide. The United Kingdom had 114, Spain 13, Israel 12, Denmark 6, Ireland at least 5, The Netherlands 4, Italy 4, Norway 2, France 2, Romania 1, and Belgium 1.
Of those infected, one child has died and 17 have required liver transplants.
The common viruses that cause acute viral hepatitis – hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E – haven’t been detected in any of the cases. International travel and other country-based links also haven’t been identified.
Adenovirus, a common cold virus, has been detected in at least 74 cases, the WHO said. Covid-19 infection was identified in 20 cases, and infection with both Covid-19 and an adenovirus was detected in 19 cases.
Since that WHO update, authorities in Canada have found cases of hepatitis in children but have not said how many.
And in Japan, a child has been hospitalised with severe hepatitis in what is thought to be the first such case in Asia, Cnbc reported, citing Japan’s Health Ministry.
Health experts are investigating whether the children are vulnerable to hepatitis because they were not exposed to many common viruses during the pandemic lockdowns.