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Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Child being treated for acute form of hepatitis has died, HSE says

A second child being treated for the same illness has received a liver transplant.

THE HSE HAS confirmed that one child has died after receiving treatment for an acute form of hepatitis. 

A second child who was also being treated for the same illness has received a liver transplant, the health service confirmed. 

It comes after a number of cases of the illness were identified in Ireland in recent weeks, following more cases being confirmed worldwide.  

In a statement to The Journal, the HSE said six probable cases of children with hepatitis of unknown cause have been identified in Ireland over the past ten weeks, with a small number of children under investigation.

“This is more than would usually be expected over this period of time. The children affected have no links to the other children involved,” the statement said. 

All probable cases are in children between the ages of one and 12 years of age and all have been hospitalised. 

“To date no single virus has been identified in the cases. Investigations are currently ongoing to identify the cause of these illnesses,” the statement continued. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that as of 21 April, at least 169 cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children have been reported from 11 countries in the WHO European Region and one country in the WHO Region of the Americas.

The majority of cases have been reported in the United Kingdom, with 114 cases being identified there. The remaining cases were reported from other EU/EEA countries as well as the United States of America.

Investigations are underway in the UK to determine the cause of the illness, with information gathered thus far suggesting that the recent cases of hepatitis may be linked to adenovirus infection.

The HSE stressed that this theory is still under investigation and said the Irish cases have no links to the UK cases, and none had a recent travel history to the UK before onset of symptoms.

The common viruses that cause hepatitis have not been detected in any of the cases.

One area being explored is whether the hepatitis cases are linked to an increase in infections caused by adenovirus, a common cause of childhood illness.

Other possible causes such as another infection, including Covid-19, or something in the environment are also being investigated.

In Ireland, as in other countries, investigations are underway to determine if current or prior Covid-19 infection may increase the risk of this disease in some children.

The HSE said that none of the Irish cases who were tested on admission to hospital had evidence of Covid-19 infection at that time, adding that the majority of the cases had not received Covid-19 vaccination.

The health service added that Ireland is liaising closely with ECDC, UK and WHO colleagues in efforts to identify the cause of this illness.

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