Toddler fighting for life as mysterious hepatitis outbreak sweeps the globe

A spike in unexplained hepatitis infections spreading across the world left a three-year-old girl clinging to life last month.

Lola-Rose Raine, from Kent in the UK, is one of at least 169 young children who have fallen ill with the same liver inflammation since January.

First detected in Great Britain, cases of the “acute hepatitis of unknown origin” have now been confirmed in numerous countries like the US, Italy, Spain, Israel and France, according to the World Health Organization.

Lola-Rose Raine seen in hospital with her dad while battling hepatitis.
Lola-Rose Raine is one of at least 169 young children across the globe who have fallen ill with acute hepatitis since January. Source: Sky News

One child has died so far, with 17 others — including Lola-Rose — forced to undergo a liver transplant.

The three-year-old’s dad, Alan Raine, ultimately ended up saving her life.

Three-year-old diagnosed with 'acute liver failure'

Mr Raine says he first noticed something was wrong with his daughter on March 13.

He told Sky News that he arrived home late at night to find the three-year-old “being sick on the bedroom carpet”.

The dad gave her some medicine and laid on the floor next to her until she fell asleep, but the next morning Lola-Rose’s mum noticed she had a strange colour in the corner of her eyes.

“It wasn't easy to see,” he said.

“If Lola was looking straight at you, you couldn't see it, but when she moved her eyes to the side while keeping her head still, you could see the colour change.”

Concerned, the parents called emergency services for help and were told to bring the child to hospital.

The three-year-old in hospital with acute hepatitis.
The three-year-old was forced to undergo a liver transplant due to acute hepatitis. Source: Sky News

“They started her on antibiotics and repeated her blood tests daily,” Mr Raine told Sky News.

“During this time, her liver function tests were increasingly worse each time they tested her blood.”

A few days later, the three-year-old was transferred to a specialist liver ward.

“We were then told that Lola was suffering from acute liver failure, secondary to adenovirus,” Mr Raine said.

Adenoviruses are a family of common viruses that usually cause a range of symptoms, including colds, vomiting and diarrhoea.

“While they don’t typically cause hepatitis, it is a known rare complication of the virus,” the UK Health Security Agency says.

Dad saves daughter's life

Despite being given medication, Lola-Rose’s liver went into “complete failure”, causing her brain to swell. Doctors were forced to place her in an induced coma.

“We were literally watching our little girl die in front of our eyes,” Mr Raine told Mail Online.

“I have no idea how else to explain it. It was like someone's reached into your chest and torn your heart out. I was thinking ‘there's nothing you can do’.”

On March 26, Lola-Rose was placed on the urgent transplant list.

Mr Raine before and after the liver donation.
Mr Raine was able to donate part of his liver to his daughter after doctors confirmed they were a match. Source: Sky News

Desperate to help their daughter, her parents underwent testing to see if they were a match.

After an anxious few days, Mr Raine was given the green light for surgery and donated the left lateral segment of his liver to his sick child.

The dad said the yellowness in Lola-Rose’s skin disappeared quickly after the lengthy procedure and her blood tests returned to normal within days.

The three-year-old is now back to her old self and will soon return home, her relieved parents said.

Cause of acute hepatitis cases remains unclear

While the cause of the spike in acute hepatitis among children under 10 remains unclear, British health officials say there is increasing evidence that it is linked to adenovirus.

It has been detected in 75 per cent of the confirmed cases tested, the UK Health Security Agency said in statement on Monday.

“It is not yet clear if there has been an increase in hepatitis cases, or an increase in awareness of hepatitis cases that occur at the expected rate but go undetected,” the WHO said earlier this week.

“While adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent.”

One avenue of inquiry being explored is that the outbreak may be linked to a surge in common viral infections after Covid-19 restrictions were phased out.

Children who weren’t exposed to adenoviruses over the last two years may now be getting hit harder when they are exposed to the viruses.

UK public health officials have ruled out any links to Covid-19 vaccines, saying none of the affected children were vaccinated.

Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at UKHSA, has urged parents to be alert to the signs of hepatitis, such as jaundice, dark urine, itchy skin, being sick and a high temperatures.

“Normal hygiene measures such as thorough hand washing (including supervising children) and good thorough respiratory hygiene, help to reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus,” Dr Chand said.

With AP

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