At least eight children with suspected severe hepatitis are under observation in different parts of Argentina, the National Health Ministry confirmed Friday.
Officials also said that all the cases are under epidemiological investigation and have not yet been officially classified as severe hepatitis of unknown origin.
According to the government, these are isolated cases with no connection between them. In a statement, the Health Ministry said that “this is not an outbreak but a situation that is not beyond what is usually reported,” underlining that every year there are cases severe acute hepatitis that go without diagnosis.
The first case in Argentina of a child diagnosed with the mysterious form of hepatitis, whose origin is under study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after being registered in at least 20 countries, was detected on Wednesday.
What we know
On April 15, the WHO issued an alert following the appearance of an outbreak of severe acute hepatitis, of unknown cause, involving children in the United Kingdom, which so far has reported 74 children with the liver disease. Most of the cases have been reported in Europe, with some in the Americas.
The disease has caused the death of four children, according to the WHO balance of 228 reported cases as of May 1.
According to a spokesman for the United Nations body, Tarik Jasarevic, there are also another 50 suspected cases worldwide under investigation, and at least four regions globally are affected.
Argentina's Health Ministry, in light of the epidemiological alert, has recommended that the population ensure youngsters have completed the schemes of the National Vaccination Calendar for each age group, frequently wash their hands, avoid contact with sick people, cover their mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
In the presence of symptoms compatible with those of hepatitis (fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, white stools, joint pain and jaundice) in children under 16 years of age, it is advisable to consult a physician.
In addition, the health portfolio recommended that health teams in charge of paediatric population care should suspect acute hepatitis of unknown origin in those cases with clinical symptoms compatible with hepatitis with negative tests for viral hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E), and include in the study of these patients the detection of adenovirus.
US health authorities are analysing whether the origin could be a pathogen called adenovirus 41. Adenoviruses, usually associated with mild respiratory ailments, can also cause conjunctivitis or digestive disorders, are more frequent in winter and are easily transmitted in day care centres and schools.