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Maria Cheng, The Associated Press

LONDON — Cases of a mysterious liver infection in children first seen in the UK have now been detected elsewhere in Europe and the United States.

British officials last week reported 74 cases of hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, in children since January. The viruses usually responsible for hepatitis were not present, however, and experts are examining other possible sources.

Cases of hepatitis have now been spotted in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said in a statement on Tuesday, without specifying how many infections have been found. .

In the United States, officials have detected nine infections in Alabama, in children between the ages of 1 and 6.

“Mild hepatitis is very common in children after different viral infections, but what you’re seeing now is very different,” said Graham Cooke, an infectious disease specialist at Imperial College London.

Some of the British patients needed specialist care, and a few even had to get a new liver.

The liver processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. The infections caused symptoms like jaundice, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Hepatitis can be fatal if left untreated.

While the exact cause of infections is not known, many suspect an adenovirus. Only a few of the children have tested positive for coronavirus, but the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that genetic analysis of the virus is needed to identify possible links between the cases.

There are dozens of adenoviruses, several of which cause flu-like symptoms, fever, scratchy throat and conjunctivitis. US authorities revealed that all nine Alabama children tested positive for adenovirus, and officials are exploring a possible link to adenovirus 41 which usually causes abdominal inflammation.

Public health officials ruled out a link to COVID-19 vaccines, as no children had been vaccinated.

The WHO has stressed that although there is an upsurge of adenovirus in the UK, the possible role played by this virus in the onset of hepatitis is uncertain. The UN agency has testified to less than five possible cases in Ireland and three confirmed cases in Spain, in children aged 22 months to 13 years.

The WHO added that it is “very likely” that more cases will be detected, given the explosion in the number of cases over the past month and the intensification of surveillance.




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