One child has died and 17 more left needing liver transplants after a mysterious hepatitis outbreak.
Parents have been warned to look out for tell tell signs their children have been affected, reports The Sun.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) have had reports of at least 169 cases of 'acute hepatitis of unknown origin' from 12 countries.
The UK has been the epicentre of the outbreak so far, seeing 114 out of the global 169.
Infections have also been found in the US, Spain, Israel, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium.
The WHO have not released more info on where the child who died was from but experts are desperately trying to figure out what's caused the outbreak.
The leading view from scientists is that the cause is an adenovirus – common viruses that cause flu-like and gastro symptoms, but usually resolve without any lasting issues.
In children they generally spark a mild illness, with the liver inflammation associated with hepatitis rare in healthy youngsters.
Usually the type of infections caused include the ear, common colds, pink eye and tonsillitis, with symptoms including coughs, sore throats, diarrhoea and fever.
At least 74 of the children have been found to be infected with an adenovirus. Around 20 had Covid, and 19 had both Covid and an adenovirus infection, a virus that can cause a range of illnesses including cold-like symptoms, fever and sore throat.
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Experts have ruled out the Covid vaccines as none of the affected children had received a jab.
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said there is increasing evidence the hepatitis is linked with adenovirus infection.
Parents are being urged to ensure their children are washing their hands thoroughly and to keep an eye out for symptoms.
Short-term hepatitis often has no noticeable symptoms, the NHS says.
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But the 10 main hepatitis warning signs are:
- Dark urine
- Pale, grey-coloured poo
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Muscle and joint pain
- A high temperature
- Feeling and being sick
- Feeling unusually tired all the time
- Loss of appetite
- Tummy pain
Respiratory hygiene includes encouraging children to catch their sneezes in a tissue or the crook of their elbow and coughing into their hand.
Dr Chand said: “We are working… to swiftly investigate a wide range of possible factors which may be causing children to be admitted to hospital with liver inflammation known as hepatitis.
“Information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this is linked to adenovirus infection.
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“However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.
“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.”
Dr Zania Stamataki, Associate Professor in Viral Immunology, Centre for Liver and Gastrointestinal Research, University of Birmingham, also said: “Most of the children with hepatitis have tested positive for adenovirus infection which is circulating now, however the liver inflammation may have been caused by a previous infection that has now cleared.
"Sudden onset hepatitis may also be caused by a combination of insults to the liver, including viruses, toxins or drug treatments.
“The rising incidence of children with sudden onset hepatitis is unusual and worrying.
"If an adenovirus is to blame, this could be a new variant of adenovirus that may cause liver injury in children with naïve/immature immune systems."
A Public Health Scotland epidemiologist has suggested children could be reacting more severely to an adenovirus due to not being exposed to as many germs in lockdown.
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