US health authorities announced they will start an investigation into a spate of cases of hepatitis of unknown causes among children, including five deaths, Belga News Agency reports.
Giving the update at a press conference on Friday, Jay Butler, Director for Infectious Diseases at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 109 cases had occurred in the US since late last year.
Wordwide, nearly 300 probable cases of children with severe hepatitis have been detected in 20 different countries worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
Most cases of children, often under the age of 10, had been detected in Europe, while others were reported in the Americas, Western Pacific and South East Asia.
Belgium reported its first mysterious case of acute hepatitis in children on 24 April this year.
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"Fifteen days ago, CDC issued a nationwide health alert about an investigation involving nine children in [the southern state of] Alabama identified between October 2021 and February 2022 with hepatitis of unknown cause," Butler said. "Since then, CDC has received reports of more cases across the country."
“As of today, CDC is investigating 109 children with hepatitis of unknown cause occurring in 25 states and territories over the past seven months,” Butler said. “Sadly, this includes five reported deaths.”
Over 92% of the patients under investigation were hospitalised and 14% received liver transplants, he added.