Việt Nam steps up response to unexplained acute hepatitis in children

Update: May, 14/2022 - 09:00


Cases of unknown severe acute hepatitis have occurred in areas where adenovirus is reported. — Photo

HÀ NỘI — Ministries, agencies and localities have been ordered to provide a response plan to acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children, following warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In a document sent from the Government Office on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam requested the Ministry of Health to exchange and update information with WHO about the disease to proactively have a response plan, prepare human resources, medical materials and equipment for disease prevention and treatment.

The ministry was assigned to direct the inspection, monitoring, and guidance of disease prevention and control. It shall promptly report to the Prime Minister when the disease has complicated developments.

The Ministry of Information and Communications shall assume the prime responsibility for, and coordinate with the health ministry in providing information on the disease and prevention and control measures.

People's committees of provinces and centrally-governed cities, especially border provinces with international border gates, were asked to strengthen supervision at border gates, airports and seaports to detect suspected cases and promptly report to the health authority for appropriate guidance and management.

According to information from WHO and the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (ECDC), the exact cause of acute hepatitis in children is not known and investigations are ongoing. However, cases have occurred in areas where adenovirus is reported.

Doctor Nguyễn Phạm Anh Hoa, head of the Hepatology Department under National Children's Hospital, told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper that adenovirus was detected in about 30 per cent of cases in the world. In the US, as of May 6, this strain was positive in 61 per cent of children suffering from the disease.

“Although adenovirus is quite common in sick children, it cannot be confirmed that this virus is the cause of acute hepatitis in children."

Hoa said that adenovirus was not a new virus, as it was discovered in 1953 and has 57 types with seven species.

It was also the strain that causes eye pain, pneumonia, flu and diarrhoea, she said, adding that it was also one of the causes of respiratory infections in adults and gastrointestinal damage in children.

Although the hypothesis that the cause of the disease-linked adenovirus has not been scientifically confirmed, the recognition of the presence of adenovirus in some pediatric patients with acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology needs to be continued to be monitored and studied in the future, she said.

The number of worldwide cases now stands at 450, according to a May 11 report from the ECDC — nearly double the 228 cases the WHO reported last week.

The ECDC, a European Union agency, stated in its update Wednesday that roughly 105 cases have been identified in 13 European Union countries as of May 10. Italy has the most cases of EU countries, with 35, followed by Spain's 22. — VNS