The irony of the coronavirus is that while Europe, along with the West, is the epicenter of the pandemic, it arguably has the fewest restrictions to curb the prevalence of the plague.
Thus, the region is under the spotlight amid indications that the easing of pandemic restrictions is behind the recent outbreak of a deadly hepatitis of unknown origin.
Among the restrictions Western governments have eased are travel limitations, as thousands converged on sporting venues and festivities in the region.
As the world comes to terms with COVID-19, the emergence of hepatitis among minors is turning into a cause for global concern.
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has, at the time of publication, confirmed that more than 700 probable cases have been reported to it from 34 countries.
112 other cases were under investigation.
At least 38 of these children required liver transplants.
Ten died of the mysterious strain of hepatitis.
WHO continues to work with countries to investigate the cause of hepatitis in these children, with the outbreak remaining a mystery.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, revealed that so far the five viruses (including hepatitis A, B, C, D and E) that commonly cause hepatitis have only been detected in none of these cases.
“WHO receives reports of unexplained hepatitis in children every year, but a few countries have reported that the rates they are seeing are higher than expected,” he said.
Experts have sought to solve the puzzle and COVID-19 relaxation is apparently to blame.
“Alternatively, as seen with other respiratory viruses, the easing of pandemic restrictions could have led to a massive wave of adenovirus infections, allowing for a rarer infection outcome to be detected,” said The Lancet in his recent note on infectious diseases.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the majority of these mysterious cases of hepatitis in children have been reported in the UK.
In mid-May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 36 states and territories had reported 180 cases of childhood hepatitis of unknown cause in the past seven months.
This is an increase from 109 publicly reported in the first week of May 2022.
During this time, adenoviruses became the focus of investigations, but not all children tested positive for adenovirus.
Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children and other respiratory infections are straining health systems in the region.
The emergence of hepatitis of unknown cause in children is a setback from the WHO goals of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.
While experts search for answers, it remains to be seen whether hepatitis in children is a post-infectious sequelae of SARS-CoV-2.
In the UK for example, according to Lancet, a drop in the number of new cases of hepatitis of unknown cause in the two weeks to May 6 coincided with a drop in SARS-CoV-2 cases.
SARS-CoV-2 is an acronym for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, a strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
– CAJ News
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