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Over 1,000 recorded cases of mysterious child hepatitis outbreak globally: WHO

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Over 1,000 probable cases of unexplained severe acute hepatitis in children have been recorded in 35 countries since the outbreak was first detected in April, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

As of July 8, 1,010 cases have been recorded and 22 children have died. Almost half of the probable cases were reported in Europe, accounting for 484 cases (recorded in 21 European countries), followed by 435 cases in the Americas (334 recorded in the US alone), and 272 cases in the United Kingdom.

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17 countries have so far reported over five probable cases.

“The actual number of cases may be underestimated, in part due to the limited enhanced surveillance systems in place. The case count is expected to change as more information and verified data become available,” WHO cautioned in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the risk of this pediatric hepatitis outbreak spreading is “moderate.”

The United Nations health agency has been keeping a close eye on the matter – in addition to dealing with the COVID-19 and monkeypox outbreaks – as the spread of the mysterious virus has left dozens of previously healthy children in need of liver transplants.

The most commonly reported symptoms were nausea or vomiting, jaundice, general weakness, and abdominal pain, according to the currently available clinical data. The average time between exhibiting symptoms and hospitalization was four days.

The health body said that hepatitis A to E were not present in the affected children who underwent laboratory testing. Other pathogens such as the coronavirus were detected in some cases, but the data is incomplete.

WHO said the “most frequently detected pathogen” however were adenoviruses – a virus which causes a wide range of illnesses like fever, colds, pneumonia, and sore throats.

“Due to limited adenovirus surveillance in most countries, it is challenging to assess whether these rates are higher than the expected rates in the population,” the UN health body said.

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