Warning as mysterious cases of hepatitis in kids hit 300 – the 9 signs parents must not ignore

PARENTS have been told to stay alert for symptoms of hepatitis as a mystery outbreak in kids grows.

Jaundice and vomiting are the most common symptoms experienced by children in hospital with liver inflammation, UK health chiefs said.

It is not clear what is behind the sudden spike in hepatitis.

Investigations into adenovirus, Covid, paracetemol use and pet dogs are ongoing.

The World Health Organization said there were 300 probable cases spread over 20 countries.

But data reveals that over half are in the UK. Health chiefs say they have detected at least 163 since January 1. 

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An update from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on Friday shows an extra 18 cases recorded as of May 3, compared to April 29.

None of the children have died in the UK but 11 have needed a liver transplant.

Some 13 children are still in hospital, while 88 have been discharged and are fully recovered.

Elsewhere in the world, at least one death has been confirmed by the WHO, with five others reported by the US and three by Indonesia.

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Infection by the usual hepatitis types A-E has been ruled out as a potential cause.

But a common virus called adenovirus, which can cause stomach bugs, sore throats and ear infections, is being closely looked at.

Many of the children have tested positive for adenovirus, including at least 91 of the 163 UK cases.

UKHSA said some of those who tested negative did not have a blood sample, which is the most reliable way to pick up an adenovirus bug. 

However, as it is not common to see hepatitis following adenovirus infection in previously healthy children, investigations are looking into other factors which may be contributing, the UKHSA said.

These include previous Covid infection or a change in the adenovirus genome itself.

Pet dog worries

It comes after suggestions that pet dogs may be behind the spate of cases.

A questionnaire of families found “relatively high numbers of dog-owning families” among those affected by the hepatitis outbreak.

Some 64 out of 92 cases were linked with dog exposure.

“The significance of this finding is being explored,” the UKHSA said but added that “pet dog ownership is common in the UK”.

It was also found that three quarters of respondents had mentioned using paracetamol.

The prevalence of paracetamol use is considered consistent with guidance on management of acute illness in children, the experts said.

Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at UKHSA, said: “It’s important that parents know the likelihood of their child developing hepatitis is extremely low.

“However, we continue to remind everyone to be alert to the signs of hepatitis – particularly jaundice, look for a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes – and contact your doctor if you are concerned.

“Our investigations continue to suggest that there is an association with adenovirus and our studies are now testing this association rigorously.”


The UKHSA said the vast majority of cases are in those aged under five.

In a report dated May 6, it revealed the most common symptoms in kids when they came to hospital with hepatitis.

These were:

  1. Jaundice (71%)
  2. Vomiting (63%)
  3. Pale stools (50%)
  4. Diarrhoea (45%)
  5. Nausea (31%)
  6. Abdominal pain (42%)
  7. Lethargy (50%)
  8. Fever (31%)
  9. Respiratory symptoms (19%)

Early evidence suggests children with hepatitis have been infected with adenovirus type 41, which causes stomach problems.

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Prior to hepatitis, this type of adenovirus may cause:

  • Tummy pains
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea 
  • Diarrhoea

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