Wigan parents urged to know signs of hepatitis as outbreak in young children probes possible link to dogs

Cases of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) in young children across the UK are being probed as investigators explore a possible link between dogs and the recent spike in infections.

By Jon Peake
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 12:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 1:05 pm

According to gov.uk, since April 29, a further 18 cases have been confirmed, bringing the total number of UK cases to 163. Of these children, 11 have received a liver transplant. None have died.

The cases are predominantly in children under 5 years old who showed initial symptoms of gastroenteritis illness (diarrhoea and nausea) followed by the onset of jaundice.

There is no evidence of any link to the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. The majority of cases are under 5 years old, and are too young to have received the vaccine.

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Symptoms of sudden onset hepatitis include a high temperature

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.

“We are also investigating other contributors, including prior SARS-CoV-2, and are working closely with the NHS and academic partners to understand the mechanism of liver injury in affected children.”

According to the UK Health Security Agency, family questionnaires have shown "relatively high numbers of dog-owning families or other dog exposures", with 64 of 92 cases with available data mentioning dog exposure.

The UKHSA said "the significance of this finding is being explored" but that it could be a coincidental because dog ownership is common in the UK.

What to look out for

A high temperature

Jaundice

Itchy skin

Muscle and joint paint

Loss of appetite

Feeling unwell or tired all the time

Dark urine or pale/grey coloured faeces

How to help prevent it

Normal hygiene measures, including thorough handwashing and making sure children wash their hands properly, help to reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus.