10-month boy with acute hepatitis with unknown cause hospitalised at KKH; MOH investigating

MOH said the boy and his household contacts are currently well.

Fiona Tan | May 02, 2022, 12:03 PM

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The Ministry of Health (MOH) has reported that a 10-month-old boy in Singapore was found with acute hepatitis, or liver inflammation, of unknown cause.

Hepatitis of unknown cause

According to CNA, MOH said in a statement on Apr. 30 that the boy went to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital Emergency Department on Apr. 25.

He was admitted for further investigations, and the ministry was informed of the boy's case of acute hepatitis on Apr. 29.

The boy and his household contacts are currently well.

MOH said the boy was infected with Covid-19 in December 2021, however, the ministry said that there was "no evidence" that his acute hepatitis is related to Covid-19.

Additionally, laboratory testing has ruled out the common viruses that could have caused the boy's acute hepatitis, such as hepatitis type A, B, C and E viruses.

MOH investigating if case is related to global outbreak

MOH said: "Investigations are ongoing to determine if the case has a similar presentation to the cases of acute hepatitis of unknown cause reported internationally and by the World Health Organization (WHO)."

WHO was alerted to 10 of such cases amongst children below the age of 10 in Britain on Apr. 5.

Three days later, the number of cases identified in Britain surged to 74.

WHO said at least one child has died ever since an increase in acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children was identified.

By Apr 23, there were at least 169 cases reported in 12 countries.

This number has since increased to more than 200 suspected and probable cases of acute hepatitis of unknown cause among children across 17 countries, said MOH in its statement on Apr. 30.

Countries include United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Israel, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium.

Early investigations link acute hepatitis to adenovirus infection

MOH said while the exact cause of these cases of acute hepatitis in children across the world is currently unknown, initial investigations suggest the cases may be linked to the adenovirus.

Adenovirus is a common virus that typically causes respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, however, it is not typically known to cause hepatitis in healthy children.

Hepatitis is caused by viral infections, alcohol use, toxins, medications, and certain medical conditions instead.

MOH monitoring the situation

The ministry said it is "monitoring the situation closely", and added that it has informed all medical practitioners to be vigilant to young children presenting signs and symptoms of hepatitis for which a cause cannot be identified.

It also advised parents and guardians to stay alert to the signs of hepatitis and seek early medical attention.

Symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • Dark urine
  • Pale, grey coloured faeces
  • Yellowing of the white part of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • Itchy skin
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Lethargy or loss of appetite

"Normal hygiene measures such as hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene help to reduce spread of many common infections, including adenovirus infection," said MOH.

It added: "Children who are unwell are advised to stay home from school until symptoms have stopped or assessed to be fit to return to school."

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Top image via KK Women's and Children's Hospital/Google Maps