Health Ministry stepping up monitoring of acute hepatitis cases in kids after incidents worldwide

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry has increased surveillance for acute hepatitis cases in all government clinics and hospitals following the global spike in severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin among children, says Khairy Jamaluddin (pic).

The Health Minister said that health practitioners at clinics should refer children aged one month to 18 years old to the hospital for further treatment if they showed signs of jaundice and other acute hepatitis symptoms.

According to him, these symptoms include appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and dark urine.

“Based on the Health Ministry’s monitoring, a boy who was four years and 11 months old was treated for symptoms of acute hepatitis at a hospital in Sabah in March.

“The case experienced symptoms of jaundice, fever, poor appetite, nausea and vomiting,” he said in a statement on Friday (May 6).

Khairy added that the child underwent a liver transplant on March 30 at a hospital in the Klang Valley as his liver function was deteriorating and he was discharged on April 22 in good health.

"Initial investigations found that the boy contracted Covid-19 previously and had no other history of illnesses.

"However, investigations are still ongoing to determine whether the case fulfils the criteria of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin," he said.

Khairy added that the Health Ministry was currently developing a reference and management protocol for severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin cases.

He urged parents to bring their children to the nearest healthcare facility if they exhibit symptoms related to acute hepatitis.

On April 23, the World Health Organisation (WHO), through its Event Information Site (EIS), reported cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin among children aged between one month and 16 years old.

As of April 21, WHO had received 169 reports of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin cases from 12 countries with the United Kingdom reporting the highest number of cases so far at 114 cases.

Other countries that reported similar cases include Spain, Israel, the United States, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, France, Norway, Belgium and Romania.

So far, only one fatality has been reported.

WHO also estimated that at least 10% of the 169 cases would require a liver transplant.

Khairy said that the WHO found that 74 out of the 169 cases tested positive for adenoviruses and another 20 tested positive for Covid-19.

"These incidents are classified as 'severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin' because lab tests were unable to identify hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses.

"However, studies are still underway to determine the cause for this form of acute hepatitis," he said.

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