Indonesia says 3 children die of acute hepatitis

This raises the global death toll from the liver ailment affecting children to at least four. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Three paediatric patients in Indonesia died from acute hepatitis in April, the country's Health Ministry said, raising the global death toll from the mysterious liver ailment affecting children from the United States to Asia to at least four.

The children, hospitalised in the capital Jakarta, had symptoms including nausea, vomiting, heavy diarrhoea, fever, jaundice, seizures and loss of consciousness, the ministry said in a statement on Monday (May 2).

It is urging parents to immediately take children who exhibit these symptoms to the hospital. The ministry is running a full panel of tests to determine the cause of the disease and has issued a circular to step up nationwide surveillance for the illness, it said.

The ministry also urged health facilities around the country to look out for such possible illnesses among children, Kompas newspaper reported yesterday.

Over the weekend, Singapore confirmed a case of acute hepatitis in a 10-month-old baby and is investigating whether it has a similar presentation to other cases reported worldwide.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Saturday it was informed of the case involving the baby on Friday.

The child was taken to the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital Emergency Department on April 25 and admitted for further investigation.

MOH said the infant was infected with Covid-19 in December last year, but that there is no evidence at this time that the acute hepatitis is related to the virus.

Globally, at least one other child has died from acute hepatitis, and more than a dozen others have undergone liver transplants after coming down with the disease, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

While the cause of the sickness is yet to be determined, investigators are studying a family of pathogens called adenoviruses that cause a range of illnesses, including the common cold.

The acute hepatitis outbreak in children has required liver transplants in at least 17 others across the globe, according to WHO.

The first United States cases were identified at an Alabama hospital in October last year, when five children were admitted with liver damage from an unknown cause.

The WHO was notified on April 5 about 10 cases in previously healthy children in Scotland.

Three days later, 74 cases were identified in Britain.

Most of the 169 cases have been detected in Britain – at 114 as of April 21 – followed by 13 in Spain, 12 in Israel, nine in the US and 21 more scattered among Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium, according to WHO.

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