Mysterious liver disease kills three children in Indonesia

  • At least four children around the world have died from a mysterious liver disease.
  • Of those, three children are from Indonesia.
  • The strain has been identified in 20 countries.

Three children in Indonesia have died of a mysterious liver disease, the country’s health ministry said, bringing to at least four the global death toll from a fatal ailment that has baffled doctors from the United States to Asia.

This severe strain of acute hepatitis has been identified in nearly 230 children in 20 countries, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, raising concerns about the “unknown origin” of the disease.

Symptoms that plague the children included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, before their livers showed signs of inflammation. At least one death was previously reported.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry said three children had died in hospitals in the capital Jakarta last month after showing some of these symptoms.

The children, aged two, eight and 11, also had fever, jaundice, seizures and loss of consciousness, ministry spokeswoman Siti Nadia Tarmizi told AFP.

“At the moment, we suspect that the cases are acute hepatitis, but we need to confirm that they are not due to known hepatitis A, B, C, D and Rb viruses,” Tarmizi said.

READ | Four Telltale Symptoms of Mysterious Liver Disease Spreading Among Children in the US and Europe

He added that the Health Ministry was currently investigating the cause of the illness by running a full panel of virus tests.

The ministry also asked parents to take their children to hospital immediately if they show any signs of the symptoms.

This emergence of a possible new disease that affects only young children (most are under 10 years old and have no underlying conditions) has raised concern in a global health community already grappling with covid-19.

According to the WHO, most of the cases have appeared in Europe, particularly Britain, where there has been an “unexpected significant increase” in cases among previously healthy young children.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study Friday of a cluster in Alabama where nine children also tested positive for a common pathogen called adenovirus 41.

The pathogen is known to cause gastroenteritis in children.

But “it is not generally known to cause hepatitis in otherwise healthy children,” the agency had said.

Adenoviruses are commonly transmitted by close personal contact, respiratory droplets, and surfaces. There are more than 50 types of adenoviruses, the ones that most commonly cause colds, but also many other illnesses.

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