Professor Susan Hopkins has laid out which symptoms parents should be on the lookout for amid a dramatic rise in sudden-onset hepatitis across the country. UK health officials are investigating 108 cases of hepatitis – or liver inflammation – in children generally aged one to five years old since the start of this year. The Chief Medical Adviser of the UK Health Security agency told BBC Breakfast that there are a number of symptoms that parents can check for.
She said: “The particular symptoms we are looking at it include itchy skin, being off your food and lethargy.
“There are also jaundice symptoms so yellow eyes and yellow skin, as well as dark urine.”
Other symptoms included nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, light-coloured stools and joint pain.
Dr Hopkins urged parents to call their doctor as soon as possible if these symptoms appear in their child.
When asked what parents can do at the moment, the top medical adviser said: “Perform good hand hygiene.
“If your child goes to the toilet, make sure they wash their hands afterwards because that will reduce the risk of spreading it to others.
“The second is, if your child is unwell with a viral illness, make sure they are hydrated and get fluids into them.”
Dr Hopkins pointed to the rise in liver transplants for children aged one to five as a way to measure the dramatic spread of hepatitis.
She told BBC Breakfast: “We have had eight transplants in children aged one to five this year – that is out of sync with what we would normally see.
It can also cause a gastric-type illness, with diarrhoea and a tummy bug as the main symptoms.
The medical advisor said that the strain that causes the tummy bug “is most likely to be implicated in the hepatitis spread”.
The explanation for the outbreak range from a mutation in the virus that might trigger liver inflammation more easily to the impact of restrictions imposed in the pandemic.
The lack of social mixing among children during lockdown means children have not been exposed to common pathogens and infections.
Professor Hopkins ruled out any link between the rise in cases and the Covid-19 vaccine, as none of the children involved has been vaccinated.