First case of children’s mystery liver disease detected in Japan

·2-min read
(PHOTO: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
(PHOTO: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

By Kanoko Matsuyama

(Bloomberg) — Japan’s Health Ministry found one probable case of the mysterious severe acute hepatitis affecting children in the U.S., the U.K. and 10 other countries, raising concerns that the disease is spreading outside of Europe and the U.S.

The infection, likely the first case in Asia, was found in a young child. While an adenovirus was detected in more than 40% of cases globally, the patient in Japan tested negative, according to authorities. The child, whose age wasn’t disclosed, hasn’t had a liver transplant, it said.

One child has died and more than a dozen have undergone liver transplants as a result of a mysterious outbreak, the World Health Organization said last week. Seventeen children, or about 10% of cases, have required a liver transplant and at least one death has been reported, according to the Geneva-based agency. The WHO warned that it’s “very likely that more cases will be detected before the cause can be confirmed and more specific control and prevention measures can be implemented.”

U.K. health authorities are investigating whether there’s a potential link between the pandemic and the hepatitis outbreak.

Symptoms include liver inflammation, with markedly high liver enzymes and jaundice, a liver-linked ailment, preceded by abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting, said the World Health Organization. Typical causes for viral hepatitis have been excluded. One child died and more than a dozen have undergone liver transplants, the WHO said.

Japan’s health ministry alerted local governments and asked to report suspected cases on April 20. It will regularly release the situation of the outbreak in Japan, while working with governments around the world and monitor the outbreak, it said.

The disease has so far has affected at least 169 children, aged 1 month to 16 years, in 12 countries as of April 21 and they are mostly in the U.K. and other European countries.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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