Unexplained hepatitis cases rise to 429 in 22 countries, WHO says

Cases of unexplained hepatitis have risen to at least 429 in 22 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The number of countries reporting at least five cases has doubled since the last WHO briefing in April, from six to 12. Nine of those countries are in Europe.

Forty other possible cases of acute liver disease are awaiting classification, officials said at a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

Six children died and 26 required transplants, according to Professor Philippa Easterbrook of the WHO’s Global Hepatitis Programme. About 75% of cases involve children under five.

Although the cause remains unclear, scientists are still investigating whether the cases were caused by an adenovirus activating an inflammatory response, possibly after a previous Covid-19 infection.

In Ireland, a child died after being treated for the disease and a second received a liver transplant, the HSE reported last week.

Six probable cases of children with hepatitis of unknown cause have been detected in Ireland since the UK issued an alert in April.

The six children were between the ages of 1 and 12. All were hospitalized.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases rose in four of the world’s six regions last week, according to WHO Secretary-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus. With testing and sequencing programs being reduced in many countries, he said it was increasingly difficult to know “where the virus is and how it mutates”.

Officials expressed concern over virus outbreaks in North Korea, where state media said there were around 1.4 million suspected cases, and Eritrea, which has yet to start reporting. vaccinate its people.

High levels of coronavirus transmission among unvaccinated people, such as in North Korea, create a higher risk of a new variant, a WHO official has said.

“It is certainly concerning that countries … are not using the tools now available,” WHO Emergency Director Mike Ryan said in response to a question about the outbreak in North Korea.

“WHO has repeatedly said that where you have uncontrolled transmission there is always a higher risk of new variants emerging,” he said.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said the idea that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is mild was wrong and that narrative needs to be corrected. Omicron, in all of its sublines, can cause anything from asymptomatic infection to death, she pointed out, although vaccination offers protection.–Additional Reuters reports