Parents across England and Scotland have been warned to be on the alert for signs of hepatitis after a small number of cases were detected in children.
Around 60 cases of the inflammatory liver condition have been found in youngsters under 10 in England, and 11 cases in Scotland saw children sent to hospital.
Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at the UK Health Security Agency, said “investigations for a wide range of potential causes are under way, including any possible links to infectious diseases”.
“We are working with partners to raise awareness among healthcare professionals, so that any further children who may be affected can be identified early and the appropriate tests carried out,” said Dr Chand.
If you have a child who is showing signs of jaundice, where the skin has a yellow tinge, and is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes, then parents should contact their GP or other health care professionalDr Nicholas Phin
“We are also reminding parents to be aware of the symptoms of jaundice – including skin with a yellow tinge which is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes – and to contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns.”
While the condition may have occurred for a number of reasons, including several viral infections common in children, the cases under investigation have not found the common viruses which usually cause the condition.
In Scotland health bosses said the number of cases in such a short period of time, combined with the geographical spread and severity of illness, was “unusual”.
There are currently no clear causes for the cases which have been detected in Lanarkshire, Tayside, Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Fife.
Public Health Scotland said there was currently no clear connection between the cases.
Dr Nicholas Phin, director of public health at the organisation, said their investigation was in its early stages.
He said: “If you have a child who is showing signs of jaundice, where the skin has a yellow tinge, and is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes, then parents should contact their GP or other healthcare professional.
“We are continuing to investigate these cases and will provide further updates as and when they are available.”
Symptoms include dark urine, itchy skin, muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite and a high temperature.