Over the past week, I’ve been flooded with calls and messages from parents concerned about a public health alert that has been making the rounds on social media. The alert warns about cases of hepatitis being on the rise in children. The alert does not clearly state which public health body released it, making it easy to question its validity, however, cases have also been reported in the mainstream media and throughout the scientific community since October of 2021. While the incidence of this unusual hepatitis remains a rare occurrence globally, it never hurts to be informed when it comes to anything that can affect the health of our children. Here’s what parents need to know:
Hepatitis is a catch-all phrase that refers to inflammation of the liver. There are many potential causes including infection, drug toxicity, alcohol, and even genetic diseases. The most common causes, however, are the common hepatitis viruses A through E. In fact, many children are immunized against hepatitis A and B. Unfortunately, those vaccinations do not offer any protection against this particular type of hepatitis since those common viruses are not responsible for the type of hepatitis in question.
While scientists are not entirely sure which virus is responsible for these cases, it is suspected that these cases of hepatitis are a rare complication of a common adenovirus infection, which usually presents symptoms consistent with a stomach flu. Adenoviruses are usually spread by close personal contact and can cause sickness, diarrhea and colds. There are more than 50 types. Scientists are still investigating if there has been an actual rise in hepatitis in children or simply an increase in awareness of these hepatitis cases which would go undetected in a normal year. Another theory is that, like many other common illnesses, there is an increased incidence as the world returns to normal social mixing post-pandemic.
It’s important to remember that these cases remain extremely rare. To date, there have been 228 cases reported globally across 20 countries, with one pediatric death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The majority have been detected in Europe, including Ireland and the Netherlands, but some are also in the Americas, the western Pacific and southeast Asia. There have been no cases in The Bahamas to the knowledge of the Preferred Pediatric Organization (PPO) – the local body of pediatricians of which I am a member.
What symptoms should parents be on the lookout for? Children with vomiting and diarrhea are believed to be at increased risk of developing symptoms of this rare hepatitis. One of the major symptoms is jaundice – yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Other symptoms include dark urine; pale, gray-colored stools; itchy skin; muscle and joint pain; a high temperature; feeling unusually tired all the time; loss of appetite and stomach pain.
We always want to remain vigilant when it comes to the health of our children. If your child develops any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician for guidance. Remember, we’re here to help you raise happy and healthy kids.
• Dr. Tamarra Moss is a pediatrician committed to helping you raise happy and healthy kids. You can find her at Dr. Carlos Thomas & Pediatric Associates in New Providence, Lucayan Medical Center in Grand Bahama, or on Instagram @mykidsdoc242.