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.

This comes as active investigations into cases of sudden onset hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children aged 10 and under have identified a total of 22 cases in Scotland since January 2022. The total number of cases identified in the UK is now 163. All the children affected presented to health services between January 2022 and 3 May 2022.

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.

As the latest UKHSA Technical Briefing (external website) suggests, one of the leading potential causes of the severe disease is adenovirus.

Adenoviruses are commonly passed from person to person and by touching contaminated surfaces, as well as through the respiratory system.

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

“While the number of children developing hepatitis in Scotland has increased slightly since our previous report, overall, only a very small number of children have been admitted to hospital. The current risk to children of severe hepatitis remains low.

“Our investigations increasingly suggest that there is a link to adenovirus infection. Common infections, like adenovirus, can be prevented with good hand and respiratory hygiene, therefore, I would encourage parents and care-givers to supervise young children while they are washing their hands to ensure they do so properly.

“PHS continues to work with NHS and public health colleagues across the UK to investigate other potential causes and we will issue further updates as the situation develops”.

Last updated: 06 October 2022