Public Health Agency investigating ‘uncommon’ hepatitis cases in children in Northern Ireland

Hospitals in Northern Ireland are coming under immense pressure due to coronavirus.
Five cases have been detected in children so far

The Public Health Agency has launched an investigation after five cases of hepatitis were confirmed in children in NI.

The agency announced the inquiry on Tuesday afternoon, saying that it was working as part of a UK-wide investigation into uncommon cases of hepatitis in children.

The PHA said the cases were unusual as the viruses that normally cause hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, C, D or E) have not been detected.One of a number of potential causes under investigation is that a group of viruses called adenoviruses may be causing the illnesses. However, other possible causes are also being actively investigated.

The agency said there was no link to the Covid vaccine.

Adenoviruses are a family of common viruses that usually cause a range of mild illnesses and most people recover without complications. They can cause a range of symptoms, including colds, vomiting and diarrhoea.

While they don’t typically cause hepatitis, it is a known rare complication of the virus.

Dr Gillian Armstrong, Interim Joint Head of Health Protection at the PHA, said that practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene is the best way to prevent infection

"We are asking parents to:

  • Encourage children to wash hands regularly;

  • Make sure your child carries tissues at all times;

  • Teach children to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and to use a tissue which is disposed of quickly and carefully in a bin;

“We are also reminding parents to be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis.

"If you have a child who is showing signs of jaundice where the skin or whites of the eyes have a yellow tinge, then you should contact your GP or other healthcare professional.”