Mysterious liver disease: Suspected acute hepatitis case detected in Sabah after 4yo child undergoes liver transplant

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KUCHING, May 6: A suspected case of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin that has caused alarm in the global health community in recent weeks has been detected in a four-year-old child in Sabah who had to undergo a liver transplant.

The disease has been termed a mystery after cases first surfaced in an America at an Alabama hospital in October 2021, when five children were admitted with liver damage from an unknown cause.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin reported that the child was treated in a hospital in Sabah in March after developing jaundice, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.


“The liver function of the child deteriorated until a liver transplant was required on March 30, 2022 at a hospital in Lembah Klang. The child has been discharged from hospital on April 21, 2022 in healthy condition.

“Preliminary investigation found that the child did not have other health conditions other than SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19).

“Investigation is still being carried out to determine whether the case falls under the severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin category,” he said in a statement today.

Khairy thus called on parents to immediately take their children to the nearest hospital if they showed any sign of the symptoms of acute hepatitis including jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue or dark urination.

This came after the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that a severe type of acute hepatitis of unknown origin was identified in almost 170 young children aged one month to 16 years across 12 countries as of April 21, 2022, with 10 per cent requiring liver transplantation and at least one death has been reported to date.

The United Kingdom (UK) reported the highest number of cases at 114. Cases have also been reported in Spain, Israel, the United States of America, Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania, and Belgium.

Presently, cases have been categorised as acute hepatitis of unknown origin as the known hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D or E were not detected through the lab tests.

Of the 169 cases, WHO reported that 74 were positive for Adenovirus and 20 cases were positive of Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2). However, the cause of the acute hepatitis has not been confirmed and is still being investigated.

“With that, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has increased the surveillance for acute hepatitis in all health clinics and hospitals based on definitions of the case agreed by medical and public health experts to ensure any cases are detected without delay.

“The reference protocol and management of such cases is still being developed,” Khairy said.

MOH also urged all medical practitioners in public and private health clinics to refer young children aged one month to 18-years-old showing any signs of the symptoms to the hospital immediately.

“The MOH will continue to monitor the situation involving severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin among children and will update the development from time to time,” he added.

According to the Pan American Health Organisation, hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can cause severe health problems and can be deadly. The five main viruses involved in liver inflammation are the hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses. Viral hepatitis represents a high burden of disease and mortality worldwide with an estimated 1.1 million deaths each year. — DayakDaily