Coronavirus And Childhood Hepatitis Are They Related?

The new acute childhood hepatitis is affecting children under ten years of age in several countries around the world. Although its origin is unknown, recent evidence links it to COVID-19.

Doctor showing a thermometer and in the background a girl in a hospital bed

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Coronavirus y hepatitis infantil ¿Están relacionadas?

According to the most recent data from the World Health Organization, between April 5 and May 26, about 650 cases of acute childhood hepatitis have been detected in more than thirty-three countries.

This event sets off public health alarms, as the origin of this new pathology in children is possibly related to the coronavirus, a hypothesis that has yet to be determined. However, the latest findings suggest that there is a link between the two diseases.

On the other hand, according to the indicators, the country with the highest cases of acute childhood hepatitis is the United Kingdom, where the reports already total 222.

What is acute childhood hepatitis?

Known in the media as the "new childhood hepatitis" it is a disease that has been reported massively since last April 5 when the WHO informed the world that in the United Kingdom around a dozen children were being diagnosed with this pathology. From then on, in other countries, more reports have begun to emerge that cause worry in health organizations. 

In definition, hepatitis consists of an inflammation of the liver for various reasons, either due to infection by viruses or bacteria, due to intoxication due to alcoholic beverages or other substances, or due to the reaction of the immune system itself. However, when this inflammation develops in sharp unevenness, it is known as acute hepatitis.

Meanwhile, the new disease that is attacking children under ten years of age has been classified as of unknown origin because its causes are not related to variants A, B, C, D and E. So, confirming its true origin will take time. 

How is the situation in Latin America?

In Latin America the impact of acute childhood hepatitis has gained strength. So far six countries have been confirmed with this new public health problem, among which are: Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The last two have reported two deaths in children under five.

Also read: Health and Migration, a Challenging Combination for Latin America

Meanwhile, the symptoms that occur are diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and muscle pain. However, the main characteristic of acute hepatitis is jaundice, which is a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes.

What do the WHO studies say about its relationship with the coronavirus?

The WHO global program on hepatitis (which is researching the issue) has found (hypothetically) that there is a relationship between adenovirus and SARS-CoV-2. Two infections that are possibly acting together and, therefore, developing an abnormal response in patients.

"The key in the hypothesis is the links between adenovirus and SARS-CoV-2 and, more importantly, how these two infections may be working together as cofactors, either by increasing susceptibility or creating an abnormal response." Philippa Eastbrook, a specialist in the WHO's global hepatitis program, explained at a press conference on May 10.

As the hypothesis presumes that the coronavirus is the cause of the disease, it is being carefully analyzed whether in the past there was any contagion of Covid-19, whose infection has remained in the intestine for a while and then another adenovirus infection has activated the system. immune system causing inflammation in the liver.

Finally, there are still many doubts about it, so it is too soon to give a clear answer.

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