Hepatitis in children regularly is a rare event, it does not occur frequently, and that is why this new outbreak is drawing attention. "It is not something that occurs regularly," said Roberto Vázquez Campuzano, an academic at the Faculty of Medicine (FM) of the UNAM.
The specialist from the Department of Microbiology and Parasitology explained that recently the new outbreak occurred in the United Kingdom, moved to France and Israel, and registered 109 cases in the United States:
So far of the four infections detected in Mexico, in the state of Nuevo Leon, two are of hepatitis A (the most common in children); another is negative to all known viruses for that disease, and the fourth is still under investigation.
The expert argued that hepatitis in minors that has emerged is not from any of the known viruses or the most frequent ones such as hepatitis A, B, C, and E. "They are not the cause of the disease".
Although it is not yet known how it arose in the United Kingdom, he commented, several hypotheses are being considered: one investigates whether it is related to SARS-CoV-2; another associate it with adenovirus 41, which has been isolated in most cases and is linked to gastroenteritis.
"In the case of the new outbreak, we are analyzing whether the hepatitis is caused by intoxication with some medication; so far we are dealing with several, such as paracetamol, which was very frequently used during the pandemic," but we are continuing to investigate, he insisted.
The relationship with adenovirus 41, which has been identified in the blood, but not yet in the liver, is also being studied. A fact that calls the attention of the specialists is that with hepatitis caused by the outbreak there is no transmission between families; the sick person does not infect, for example, his or her siblings. "This is rare and implies that we have to continue investigating," he said.
The FM specialist reminded us that the disease is the inflammation of the liver and several causes produce it: drug hepatitis is caused by the consumption of medicines; obstructive hepatitis is caused by gallstones; alcoholic hepatitis, due to the abuse of alcoholic beverages; and infectious hepatitis.
In the case of infants, most hepatitis is produced by the hepatitis A virus, which in Mexico is common and the main cause that attacks children under five years of age; its prevalence is high, 70 percent.
"It is important for moms and dads to be attentive: if children have diarrhea, vomiting, or a yellow tone in the skin or eyes. In these cases, seek medical attention," he recommended.
Basic hygiene measures should be followed, such as hand washing, and covering the forearm when coughing or sneezing, in addition to maintaining the precautions against COVID-19, which are also useful for this disease.
The expert said that hepatitis does not leave sequelae in children, at least the one generated by the known viruses. "We attack the infection quickly; only with the hepatitis B virus, if the infection is acquired during the first five years of life, the person becomes a chronic carrier, which means that we are going to have the infection all our lives and we can develop some complication. That is why it is recommended that all children under one year of age be vaccinated against hepatitis B".