Infant with acute hepatitis of unknown cause hospitalised at KKH; MOH investigating

Globally, more than 200 suspected and probable cases of acute hepatitis of unknown cause have been reported. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) was informed of a case of acute hepatitis (liver inflammation) of unknown cause in a 10-month-old baby boy on Friday (April 29).

He was brought to the KK Women's and Children's Hospital Emergency Department on April 25 and was admitted for further investigation.

He and his household contacts are currently well.

In a statement on Saturday (April 30), 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 Organisation (WHO).

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

Its spokesman said: “Laboratory testing has determined the case to be negative for the common viruses that cause hepatitis.

“MOH is monitoring the situation closely and has informed all medical practitioners to be vigilant to young children presenting signs and symptoms of hepatitis for which a cause cannot be identified.”

MOH added that there have been more than 200 suspected and probable cases of acute hepatitis of unknown cause among children across 17 countries.

Cases have been reported in Britain, Spain, the United States, Canada and Japan.

Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of the liver.

MOH said it can be caused by viral infections, alcohol use, toxins, medications, and certain medical conditions.

The exact cause of these cases of acute hepatitis in children across the world is currently unknown, although initial investigations suggest the cases may be linked to adenovirus infection, the ministry added.

Adenovirus is a common virus that typically causes respiratory or gastrointestinal illness.

However, it is not typically known to cause hepatitis in healthy children.

MOH said parents and guardians should be alert to the signs of hepatitis and seek early medical attention.

The symptoms 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; and 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.

“Children who are unwell are advised to stay home from school until symptoms have stopped or assessed to be fit to return to school.”

The WHO was informed of 10 such mysterious cases on April 5 involving children under the age of 10.

By April 8, 74 such cases were identified in Britain.

On April 15, it published an item under its Disease Outbreak News saying that investigations were ongoing.

Its risk assessment said the unexpected significant increase in such cases needed to be fully investigated, and that it was likely that there would be many more cases before the cause is found.

Based on its available information then, it did not recommend any restriction on travel or trade with any other country with cases.

Another update on April 23 by the WHO said that as at April 21, at least 169 cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin had been reported.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.