The mysterious outbreak of an unidentified hepatitis strain is said to have claimed the lives of three children in Indonesia.
The country’s health ministry has confirmed that children aged 2, 8 and 11 died in hospitals in Jakarta last month — bringing the global death toll for the outbreak to four.
All were displaying some of the symptoms of the deadly liver disease, including nausea, vomiting, heavy diarrhoea, fever, jaundice, seizures and loss of consciousness.
“At the moment, we suspect the cases as acute hepatitis, but we need to confirm they are not due to known hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and Rb”, the ministry’s spokesperson Siti Nadia Tarmizi said.
The cause of the disease will be investigated with a full panel of virus tests, while surveillance for the illness is increased nationwide.
The Indonesian government is urging parents to seek immediate medical attention for any child that has symptoms.
Outbreak reaches 20 countries
The outbreak has now spread to a further eight countries, as case numbers soar around the world.
As of May 1, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had received reports of 228 probable cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in children in 20 countries.
A further 50 additional cases are under investigation.
While most infections have been reported in the UK, they’ve also been recorded in Spain, Israel, the US, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Norway, Romania and Belgium.
Almost two dozen children have required liver transplants.
Fears grow over hepatitis strain reaching Australia
While it’s still not known what is causing the outbreak — or how the disease is being transmitted — experts are concerned that it’s close to reaching Australian shores.
Professor Andrew Lloyd from UNSW, an infectious disease physician and hepatitis researcher, told Yahoo News Australia last week that it’s becoming more likely.
“The plausibility is increasing as the global case numbers appear to rise but there’s still plenty to be resolved about the cause and the mode of transition if it is a virus,” he said.
Without it, it’s not possible to know if this deadly form of hepatitis will reach Australia or not.
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