The World Health Organization is investigating cases of perfectly healthy children who suffered rare and severe liver damage.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily briefing on COVID-19 at the WHO headquarters on March 11, 2020 in Geneva.FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

  • Young children in the UK, USA, Ireland and Spain have contracted severe acute hepatitis.

  • None of the children tested positive for the viruses that cause the disease: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

  • The WHO said the illness could have been caused by an adenovirus, but the link is still unclear.

The World Health Organization is investigating cases of severe acute hepatitis in children in the UK, Ireland and Spain, the agency said on Friday.

The cases were not related to hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, the viruses that commonly cause the disease.

To date, 74 cases have been identified in children under the age of 10 in the UK, fewer than five cases have also been identified in Ireland and three have been confirmed in Spain. Officials in each country are also investigating the cause, the WHO said.

No links have been found between the children in the UK.

State News also reported that US officials are investigating nine cases of severe acute hepatitis in children, which have also not been caused by the viruses that commonly cause hepatitis.

The Alabama Department of Public Health announced Friday that since November 2021, nine cases of this acute hepatitis have been identified in children under the age of 10.

The WHO said the cause of this liver failure is still unclear and under investigation, but said adenovirus, a respiratory disease that normally causes a cold, could be involved.

In Alabama, all nine children have tested positive for Adenovirus 41, ADPH said. Karen Landers, district medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, told State News that the cases were found in different parts of the state and that they have found no link between the children.

“The affected children were from across the state of Alabama, and an epidemiological link between them has not been determined. None of these children have had any significant underlying health conditions,” ADPH said.

ADPH said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is developing a national Health Advisory to look for clinically similar cases.

Stat News, citing a scientific paper on a case in Scotland, said the pandemic may have played a role, noting that affected children may not have been exposed to a wide variety of germs during the pandemic and were therefore more likely to get sick once. COVID-19 mandates relaxed.

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