– What should you know about severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children?
The disease has had a global presence since April 2022, when the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert on cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children when the first cases were reported in the UK. As of June 8, more than 700 patients have been reported in around 34 countries.
This disease has not been detected in Cuba and although hepatitis is not generally a public health problem in the country, the health system is prepared for it to face him. Surveillance will be maintained to identify and treat those presenting with symptoms and epidemiology compatible with this condition and health workers will be trained to be in better condition to diagnose any case.
In order to learn more about the disease that worries the Cuban population so much, Dr. Lissette del Rosario López González, Head of the National Pediatric Group of the Ministry of Public Health, some questions.
– What is severe acute hepatitis in children?
Hepatitis is an inflammatory process of the liver gland that can vary in severity and is secondary to the response to an aggressor. It is not a new clinical situation, but it occurs in all age groups, although in this case we are talking about girls, boys and adolescents.
The disease can have infectious, bacterial, viral causes, among others – the most common – toxic. Severe acute hepatitis of unknown cause is essentially an inflammation of the liver with an increase in transaminases.
Although there are several hypotheses, it is said to be of unknown origin, since international studies have looked for causes to determine if it is viral hepatitis A, B, C, D or E known to date, but it is not true agree with none of them.
â€œWhat are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
It is a disease that is observed in pediatric patients and whose characteristic feature is jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes) in addition to loss of appetite and indistinct from fever, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, coluria (dark urine) and Acholia (light stool).
The WHO has issued an alert regarding this type of hepatitis because the incidence of cases exceeds usual numbers and some patients have progressed rapidly to acute liver failure requiring liver transplantation and others have died from this cause.
â€œWhat are the risk factors?
Prevention is the most effective way to address health problemsthe most important thing is not to get sick, and if you do, to recognize the warning signs to avoid complications and sluggish development.
Since this hepatitis is of unknown origin, it is difficult to enumerate specific risk factors, but in pediatrics, faced with any disease, we must act mainly in patients at risk, including: those who Having malnutrition, chronic diseases or underlying pathologies, oncological diseases and infants.
Patients at risk of hepatitis also include those requiring treatment with regular blood transfusions and those suffering from chronic renal failure requiring hemodialysis.
Although the origin of the disease is unknown, a risk-based approach helps prevent it, and in pediatric age risk factors are determined by vulnerabilities: age, chronic noncommunicable diseases, and socioeconomic and environmental factors.
– What relation can this disease have to COVID-19?
The superantigen theory (antigens that cause excessive activation of the immune system) is gaining ground, largely due to the role played by SARS-CoV-2 as a new virus linked to multiple organ injuries. This is known to cause significant damage and has even been temporarily linked to multisystem inflammatory syndrome, in which the liver is one of the most affected organs.
However, the link has yet to be proven, but there is a possibility that it is related to this clinical situation. In fact, the combination of two viruses is a hypothesis that is evaluated very specifically since SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus that damages multiple organs.
“How is Cuba preparing to face the disease and what should be done in the face of warning signs?
Cuba has a national protocol of action With a clinical-epidemiological vision, supported by the Pedro Kourà Institute of Tropical Medicine, it also has an epidemiological surveillance system in which the clinic is characterized by quality care.
Health workers are prepared to admit a patient who meets the criteria for a suspected case and activate the protocol of action, which includes clinical, laboratory and microbiological surveillance.
It is necessary not to self-medicate and go to the doctor in the presence of the described symptoms. Parents should not expect their children to get worse at home, as this can lead to the rapid development of the disease.
Health services are prepared for early and timely diagnosis of the disease, as being ahead of the curve is key to managing it successfully.
Lic. Sheila Noda Alonso
Journalist for the Cuban News Agency
Journalist for the Cuban News Agency. Bachelor of Journalism at the Faculty of Communication, University of Havana (2020). Contributor to the MINSAP website.