Health officials across 33 countries have received reports of 920 probable cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin in young children, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a press release on Friday, the health agency said the latest update on the outbreak is an increase of 270 cases since it published data last month that revealed 650 cases of severe acute hepatitis were diagnosed in children between April 5 and May 26.
The majority of the cases are in Europe, totaling 460, with 267 from the United Kingdom alone. About one-third of the probable cases are reported in the United States.
The outbreak was first reported in Britain in April and has since then hit dozens of other countries.
Of the 422 cases in which gender and age-related information are available, close to half occurred in males, with most of them under 6 years of age, according to the report.
The WHO said 45 children with acute hepatitis have required liver transplants, and there have been 18 deaths, most of them occurring in the Americas region.
Researchers have been scrambling to determine the cause of the mysterious rise in severe cases of hepatitis—or liver inflammation—in young children. They have also theorized about a possible link to COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
In a June 24 risk assessment, the WHO said acute hepatitis at a global level is “currently assessed as moderate,” citing several factors.
- The etiology of this severe acute hepatitis remains unknown and is being investigated;
- Limited epidemiological, laboratory, histopathological and clinical information are currently available to WHO;
- The actual number of cases and the geographical distribution may be underestimated, in part due to the limited enhanced surveillance schemes in place;
- The possible mode of transmission of the etiologic agent(s) has not been determined;
- Although there are no available reports of healthcare-associated infections, human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out as there have been a few reports of epidemiologically-linked cases.