HEALTH chiefs are now probing whether dogs are the cause of a mysterious hepatitis outbreak across the globe.
A “high” number of children who have contracted the illness come from families who own pooches or have had “dog exposures”.
Health officials found a high number of infected kids had been in contact with dogsCredit: Getty
The sudden spate of cases has left officials scrambling to try and determine the cause of the rising number of infections.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced the “significance of this finding is being explored,” after identifying the link with dogs.
But it remains unclear how the beloved animals could be to blame – with some experts branding it a “bit far-fetched”.
It comes as another 18 Brit kids were struck down with the disease – bringing the country’s total toll to 163 infections since January.
Eleven of the youngsters have needed a liver transplant.
Almost 300 cases have now been detected across the world – and tragically one confirmed death has been recorded.
Another four are under investigation, which aren’t in the UK.
Health chiefs have urged parents to be vigilant for signs of the virus in their kids, which include itchy skin, tummy pain and a high temperature.
Scientists have been left baffled by the outbreak, after the usual hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses were excluded from laboratory test results.
Officials are looking into whether adenovirus could be the culprit – which has two strains that are known to infect dogs.
One of these mutations causes infectious hepatitis and the other is one of the pathogens that triggers ‘kennel cough’.
But the research remains ongoing as adenovirus only usually cause colds and stomach bugs for kids.
Three-quarters of the 163 Brit children suffering from hepatitis tested positive for adenoviruses, analysis shows.
However, the UKHSA did say it was possible the others could also have had the virus due to the way the testing was carried out.
WARNING TO PARENTS
Some negative cases had only searched for adenovirus in respiratory and faecal samples – despite it being mainly detected in the blood.
But they have insisted that the chances of most children contracting hepatitis remain “extremely low”.
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, said: “We know that this may be a concerning time for parents of young children.
“The likelihood of your child developing hepatitis is extremely low.
“However, we continue to remind parents to be alert to the signs of hepatitis – particularly jaundice, which is easiest to spot as a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes – and contact your doctor if you are concerned.
“Normal hygiene measures including thorough handwashing and making sure children wash their hands properly, help to reduce the spread of many common infections.
“As always, children experiencing symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea should stay at home and not return to school or nursery until 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.
“Our investigations continue to suggest that there is an association with adenovirus and our studies are now testing this association rigorously.
“We are also investigating other contributors, including prior SARS-COV-2, and are working closely with the NHS and academic partners to understand the mechanism of liver injury in affected children.”
Most common hepatitis warning signs:
- Dark urine
- Pale, grey-coloured poo
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Muscle and joint pain
- A high temperature
- Feeling and being sick
- Feeling unusually tired all the time
- Loss of appetite
- Tummy pain