Increase in hepatitis cases in children under investigation

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recently detected higher than usual rates of hepatitis in children. Similar cases are being assessed in Scotland.

Public health doctors and scientists at the UK’s public health agencies are continuing to investigate 74 cases of hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children since January 2022, where the usual viruses that cause infectious hepatitis (hepatitis A to E) have not been detected.

Of the confirmed cases, 49 are in England, 13 are in Scotland and the remainder are in Wales and Northern Ireland.

One of a number of potential causes under investigation is that a group of viruses called adenoviruses may be causing the illnesses. However, other possible causes are also being actively investigated, including COVID-19, other infections or environmental causes.

There is no link to the COVID-19 vaccine. None of the currently confirmed cases in the UK has been vaccinated.

The most effective way to minimise the spread of adenoviruses is to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene and supervise thorough handwashing in younger children.

Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said:

“We are working swiftly with the NHS and public health colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to investigate a wide range of possible factors which may be causing children to be admitted to hospital with liver inflammation known as hepatitis.

“One of the possible causes that we are investigating is that this is linked to adenovirus infection. However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.

“Normal hygiene measures such as good handwashing – including supervising children – and respiratory hygiene, help to reduce the spread of many of the infections that we are investigating.

“We are also calling on parents and guardians, to be alert to the signs of hepatitis – including jaundice – and to contact a healthcare professional if they are concerned.

“UKHSA, working with partners, will continue to make the public aware of findings throughout the course of the investigation.”

Elements of this story have been shared under the Open Government license.