The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto reported seven cases of hepatitis of unknown cause between October 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022.
“These cases are currently being reviewed by the province, and those who meet the case definition will be reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for inclusion in the national investigation,” La Presse told La Presse. PHAC spokesperson, Anne Génier.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday that it had identified 348 probable cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in 20 countries. These previously healthy children suddenly developed hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver.
Most patients presented with gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting, or jaundice. Some cases have caused liver failure and required transplantation. Nearly a dozen of them died.
Currently, only six countries have more than five cases, but the UK alone has reported 160 patients. In the United States, health authorities said on Friday they were investigating 109 similar cases, including five fatalities. Three children also died in Indonesia.
For its part, Canada announced at the end of April that it had recorded cases of liver inflammation of unknown origin and had begun a more in-depth investigation to determine if they are linked to those recorded elsewhere in the world. The investigation is still ongoing. “We need more information to assess the situation and any potential risk to people in Canada,” Genier said.
The CHU Sainte-Justine, for its part, confirmed to La Presse on Tuesday evening that no case of hepatitis with the characteristics listed in Europe has been confirmed at the hospital. “We are closely monitoring the development of the situation,” said media relations advisor Justine Mondoux-Turcotte.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the hypothesis of an infection by a virus to explain this mysterious disease which mainly affects children is the most likely.
“Currently, the main hypotheses remain those involving adenovirus, also with important consideration of the role of COVID-19, either as a co-infection or as a prior infection” , said Philippa Easterbrook, of the WHO’s global hepatitis programme.
Tests carried out last week confirmed that around 70% of cases were positive for adenovirus, subtype 41, normally associated with gastroenteritis, she added.
Adenoviruses are usually spread through personal contact, respiratory droplets and surfaces. They are known to cause respiratory symptoms, conjunctivitis or digestive disorders.
The tests also showed that around 18% of the patients tested positive for COVID-19. “Next week we will be focusing on serology testing for previous COVID-19 exposures and infections,” Ms. Easterbrook said.
After the discovery of the first 169 cases, the WHO indicated that the hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses had not been detected in any of the patients.