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HomeWorld NewsHealth7 cases of severe acute hepatitis reported at Toronto children's hospital

7 cases of severe acute hepatitis reported at Toronto children’s hospital

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One of Canada’s largest children’s hospitals is reporting seven cases of severe acute hepatitis identified in recent months, which may be part of an unexplained outbreak impacting youth in multiple countries, CBC News has learned.

It’s still unclear how many cases have been reported across Canada, or whether any of the cases under investigation at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto — also known as SickKids — are linked to the mysterious instances of serious liver disease among children in the U.K., U.S., Israel and elsewhere.

A spokesperson for SickKids provided the tally in an email, saying the hospital is “closely monitoring” for any cases of severe acute hepatitis and has reported seven cases meeting the “probable case definition” to Public Health Ontario. 

Those cases were identified between Oct. 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022.

“It remains to be seen whether this number represents an increase in cases of unknown origin compared to similar time periods in previous years or if any of these cases will be confirmed to be caused by a novel clinical entity,” SickKids spokesperson Jessamine Luck continued.

100+ cases reported in U.S.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has not yet provided specifics on how many cases are being investigated Canada-wide to determine if they’re related to the unexplained instances of hepatitis elsewhere.

Other countries, however, have been publicizing growing numbers of potentially connected cases, with hundreds of investigations underway globally to determine the root cause of unexplained liver issues among youth.

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 109 cases across various parts of the country are under investigation to determine any possible links. Fourteen per cent of those children required liver transplants, and five died from their illness.

Hepatitis — which refers to inflammation of the liver — is rare among children. It’s typically caused by the family of hepatitis viruses, but can also be sparked by alcohol use, exposure to toxins, or other pathogens.

The cases identified by health officials around the world in recent months don’t appear to have any of those usual causes.

Instead, researchers are probing other theories, including links to infections from an adenovirus or SARS-COV-2, the virus behind COVID-19.

More to come.

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