The latest Technical Briefing, published today, highlights that investigations increasingly suggest that adenovirus is one of the leading causes of the higher than usual rates of hepatitis in children.  

A total of 26 cases of sudden onset hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children aged 10 and under have been identified in Scotland since January 2022. The total number of cases identified in the UK is now 197. All the children affected presented to health services between January 2022 and 16 May 2022.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) continues to encourage parents and care-givers to ensure children practice good hand and respiratory hygiene to help reduce the spread of common infections.

Overall, only a very small number of children have been admitted to hospital and the current risk to children of severe hepatitis remains extremely low.

Jaundice and vomiting are the most common symptoms experienced by the children affected. If a child shows signs of jaundice, where there is a yellow tinge in the whites of the eyes or on the skin, then parents should contact their GP or other Health Care professional. Other symptoms can include dark urine, pale grey coloured poo, itchy skin, muscle and joint pains, tiredness, feeling sick, a high temperature, loss of appetite and stomach pain.

The usual viruses that cause infectious hepatitis (hepatitis A to E) have not been detected.

There is no evidence of any link to the COVID-19 vaccine. The majority of cases are under 5 years old, and are too young to have received the vaccine.

Responding to the slight increase in figures in Scotland, Dr Jim McMenamin, Head of Health Protection (Infection Services) at PHS, reiterated:

“As we continue to work with NHS and public health colleagues across the UK, investigations continue to suggest that there is a link to adenovirus infection. Adenoviruses are commonly passed from person to person and by touching contaminated surfaces, as well as through the respiratory system.

“Common infections, like adenovirus, can be prevented with good hand and respiratory hygiene. I would, therefore, encourage parents and care-givers to supervise young children while they are washing their hands to ensure they do so properly”.

Last updated: 06 October 2022