Hepatitis numbers in children may just be 'tip of iceberg' as first death confirmed by WHO
Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson believes "there are more cases out there"
The number of hepatitis cases being reported in the UK “could be the tip of the iceberg”, an expert has warned.
The hepatitis outbreak is believed to have spread to 12 different countries, with Britain experiencing the most cases with 114.
At least 17 infected children have now needed liver transplants.
But a hepatologist from Imperial College London, Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson believes there are more cases out there.
He said: “I think there are more cases out there. (17 transplants) is quite a high number for how many cases we have spotted.
“I'd imagine there are more cases than have been reported — but they are likely to be less severe.”
Asked if this could be the tip of the iceberg, Professor Taylor-Robinson replied: “I think so, yes."
He told MailOnline: “I think it is likely that children mixing in kindergartens and schools have lower immunity to seasonal adenoviruses than in previous years because of restrictions.
“This means they could be more at risk of developing hepatitis because their immune response is weaker to the virus."
His comments come after the outbreak has now taken the life of a child, the World Health Organisation has confirmed.
Professor Alastair Sutcliffe, a paediatrician at University College London added: “What is for families to consider (is) if their child develops jaundice after the first few months of life they need medical attention fast.
“But that is true of any child who develops jaundice after the first few months of life so is not new advice.
“With one death and no known cause life should continue as before. Nothing is more fearful than fear itself."
Hepatitis symptoms include:
– dark urine
– pale, grey-coloured poo
– itchy skin
– yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
– muscle and joint pain
– a high temperature
– feeling and being sick
– feeling unusually tired all the time
– loss of appetite
– tummy pain