First two deaths caused by new child hepatitis in Spain confirmed

A 6-year-old boy and a 15-month-old baby have not survived a liver transplant

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MADRIDThis Thursday, the Spanish Ministry of Health has notified the first two deaths in Spain caused by an unexplained child hepatitis. Both are children who were unable to recover from the liver transplant they underwent. According to the Ministry's follow-up report on the disease, of the 46 cases detected in Spain, 3 have had to undergo surgery for a liver transplant: a three-year-old girl in Aragon (who is progressing favourably) and a 6-year-old boy in Murcia and a 15-month-old baby in Andalusia, who died 24 hours after their operation. In any case, the Ministry of Health assures that, up until now, the number of unexplained hepatitis cases in children and subsequent transplants "are within the range expected following estimates made with data from previous years".

As of July 28, a total of 507 cases have been reported in Europe in 21 different countries, the majority of which (273 cases) in the UK, where this new hepatitis was detected first. In Spain, 46 cases have been identified in children and teenagers aged 0 to 16 with compatible clinical symptoms, 60% of whom were girls aged 0 to 5. According to the report by the Epidemiological Surveillance Network, five of those affected are under twelve months old and three are babies who were admitted to the ICU between three and 48 days after birth. Cases have been reported in ten autonomous communities, with no links between them. Madrid has diagnosed the most cases, with 15, followed by Catalonia (9). The Balearic Islands have reported 4; Castilla-La Mancha, 3; Andalusia, 3; Murcia, 3; Castilla y León, 2; the Canary Islands, 1, and Aragon, 1.

According to the Ministry of Health, however, a comparative analysis between regions has not revealed an increase in cases of severe hepatitis of unknown origin in children aged 0 to 16 in the period from January to May 2022 when compared with the same period in the previous five years. "No higher incidence of sudden hepatitis in the paediatric age group requiring liver transplantation was detected between January and July 2022 at the national level compared to the average estimated for the same period between 2012 and 2021," the ministry summarises.

Adenovirus, present in half of all cases

Among the cases reported, the most frequently reported symptoms were malaise, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. Half of the patients also had jaundice –which causes yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes– 29% had diarrhoea and 25% had breathing problems.

Early indications point to a "link" with an infection caused by an adenovirus, a very common pathogen among humans that usually causes infections of the respiratory and digestive tracts, especially in children. In fact, the National Microbiology Center (CNM) of the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) has carried out microbiological investigations and has detected seven positive cases of herpes virus, and 10 of the 21 cases analysed (47.6%) have tested positive for adenovirus.