The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) announced on Friday that it had recorded 10 cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in children across the country, including one in Quebec, four in Ontario, three in Alberta and two in Manitoba.
Updated yesterday at 4:34 pm
The children were between the ages of 1 and 13 and became ill between November 3, 2021 and April 23, 2022. All of the children were hospitalized, and two required liver transplants. No deaths have been reported, PHAC said in a statement. No cases are related to known hepatitis such as hepatitis A, B, C and E.
In Quebec, the Ministry of Health and Social Services confirms the report of a probable case of severe hepatitis of unknown origin. “The child received adequate care for her condition and is improving,” spokeswoman Marie-Claude Lacasse said.
The age, sex and facility where the sick child is hospitalized have not been specified to protect his identity.
Doctors have been instructed to be vigilant and report any probable cases. Therefore, probable cases are expected to be reported in Quebec, as well as across Canada.
Marie-Claude Lacasse, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Social Services
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on May 10 that it had identified 348 probable cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in 20 countries. These previously healthy children suddenly developed hepatitis, that is, inflammation of the liver.
Severe acute hepatitis in children is a relatively rare health problem that sometimes occurs in Canada. Sometimes it is impossible to find the cause. Therefore, the ongoing PHAC investigation is trying to determine if these cases are related to those reported in other parts of the world and if there has been an increase in the number of liver infections in recent months.
Cases of severe hepatitis of unknown origin in children are reported every year, stresses the Ministry of Health and Social Services. “The international investigation aims to determine if there are currently an excess of cases compared to normal and, if so, try to identify the possible cause,” explains Ms.I Box.
Most patients presented with yellowing of the skin and eyes, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools, loss of appetite, fever, and fatigue. “Treatments exist even for cases of severe acute hepatitis where the cause is unknown, and most children recover with medical care,” says the Public Health Agency of Canada, which urges parents to seek medical advice if their child have these symptoms.
According to the WHO, the hypothesis of a virus infection to explain this mysterious disease that mainly affects children is the most likely. Adenoviruses are usually spread through personal contact, respiratory droplets, and surfaces. They are known to cause respiratory symptoms, conjunctivitis or digestive disorders.
After two years of the pandemic, scientists raise the question of an immune “debt” that would make some children more fragile. Due to the lockdown and COVID-19, children were not exposed to pathogens in the normal way, which may have made them more vulnerable to this virus, experts believe.
On the other hand, the role of vaccines against COVID-19 was ruled out, since the vast majority of children were not vaccinated, the WHO said. Investigations continue in all countries that have reported cases.
With Agence France-Presse
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