Review of records finds 2 more kids with acute hepatitis last year; infant with the illness in April has recovered
Two retrospective cases of acute hepatitis of unknown causes have been identified - a three-year-old and an eight-year-old who developed the illness last year in October and November, respectively, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (May 31).
After laboratory testing, the two cases were found to be negative for the common hepatitis viruses, such as hepatitis type A, B, C and E viruses.
Both children did not have a history of Covid-19 infection prior to their acute hepatitis, and they continue to be under regular follow-up.
The look-back investigation comes after MOH asked all hospitals with paediatric services to review their patient records for those who have a similar presentation to the cases reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which raised the alert on acute hepatitis of unknown cause occurring in young children overseas.
The WHO had said on Friday (May 27) that it had received more than 600 reports of probable cases of acute hepatitis in children in 33 different countries, but added that the causes remain unknown and are under investigation.
As at May 26, 650 probable cases have been reported to WHO from 33 countries, with 99 additional cases pending classification, according to the WHO study.
The health authorities around the world are probing a mysterious increase in severe cases of hepatitis - inflammation of the liver - in young children that have resulted in at least nine deaths.
Hepatitis in young children is not uncommon and it is not unusual for the cause of some hepatitis cases in children to remain unknown, said MOH.
"Thus far, MOH has not observed any unusual increase or pattern in the number of children with hepatitis of unknown cause," the ministry said.
MOH added: "While the cause of hepatitis in all three cases has not been identified, it may not mean that these cases are linked to the global outbreak.
"We continue to monitor the situation closely and have informed all medical practitioners to be vigilant to young children presenting with signs and symptoms of hepatitis for which a cause cannot be identified."
On April 30, MOH reported a case of acute hepatitis of unknown cause in a 10-month-old infant. The infant has since been discharged and is currently well, said MOH. It added that the cause of acute hepatitis remains unknown.
The common symptoms of hepatitis include abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting, followed by jaundice, where the skin or the whites of the eyes turn yellow.
Laboratory tests will show signs of severe liver inflammation, with markedly high liver enzyme readings.
Most of the infected children did not have a fever.
Other symptoms of hepatitis include fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine, light-coloured stools and joint pain.