10-month-old boy found with acute hepatitis of unknown cause: MOH

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 KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. (PHOTO:  KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital/Facebook)
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. (PHOTO: KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — A 10-month-old boy has been found to have acute hepatitis of unknown cause, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Saturday (30 April).

The infant was attended to at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital Emergency Department on Monday and admitted for further investigations. He and his household contacts are currently well, MOH said.

“The case has a previous history of COVID-19 infection in December 2021, although there is no evidence at this time that the acute hepatitis is related to COVID-19,” MOH said.

Investigations are ongoing to assess if the case shows similarities to the cases of acute hepatitis of unknown cause reported internationally and by the World Health Organization (WHO), MOH added. The case is negative for the common viruses that cause hepatitis – hepatitis type A, B, C and E viruses – based on laboratory testing.

More than 200 suspected and probable cases of acute hepatitis of unknown cause have been found in children in 17 countries. At present, the exact cause of acute hepatitis in these global cases is unknown, although they may be linked to adenovirus infection, according to MOH.

Adenovirus is a common virus that can cause respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, but is not typically known to cause hepatitis in healthy children.

“MOH is monitoring the situation closely and has informed all medical practitioners to be vigilant to young children presenting with signs and symptoms of hepatitis for which a cause cannot be identified.”

Handwashing and other normal hygiene measures can help reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus infection. Children who are unwell should stay home from school until symptoms have stopped or they are fit to return to school, MOH said.

Parents and guardians are advised to note symptoms of hepatitis including dark urine, pale and grey coloured faeces, yellowing of the white part of the eyes or skin or jaundice, itchy skin, muscle or joint pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy or loss of appetite.

At least one death has been reported in connection with the mysterious disease affecting children in Europe and the US, WHO said on 23 April. There are at least 169 reported cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin from a dozen countries, WHO added.

The cases were children aged one month to 16 years old, while 17 of those who fell ill had to undergo liver transplants.

WHO has also dismissed hypotheses that the disease is related to side effects of COVID vaccine, saying that most affected children had not been vaccinated.

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