Mysterious liver disease kills three children in Indonesia

  • At least four children worldwide have died of a mysterious liver disease.
  • Three of these children come from Indonesia
  • The strain has been identified in 20 countries.

Three children in Indonesia have died from a mysterious liver disease, the country’s health ministry said, bringing the global death toll from a deadly condition that baffled doctors from the US to Asia to at least four.

This serious form of acute hepatitis has been diagnosed in nearly 230 children in 20 countries, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, raising concerns about the “unknown origins of the disease.”

The symptoms that affect the children are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain – before their liver 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, convulsions and loss of consciousness, ministry spokesman Siti Nadia Tarmizi told AFP.

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

READ | Four telltale symptoms of mysterious liver disease spreading among children in US and Europe

She added that the Department of Health is currently investigating the cause of the disease by conducting a full panel of virus tests.

The ministry also called on parents to take their children to hospital immediately if they showed any symptoms.

This emergence of a potential new disease that only affects young children – most are under the age of 10 with no underlying conditions – has sparked a wave of concern from a global health community already struggling with Covid-19.

According to the WHO, most cases have occurred in Europe, particularly in Britain when there was an “unexpected significant increase” in the number of cases in young, previously healthy children.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday published a study on 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’s not usually known as a cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children,” the agency had said.

Adenoviruses are often spread through close personal contact, respiratory droplets, and surfaces. There are more than 50 types of adenoviruses, most of which cause the common cold, as well as many other diseases.

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