After the health disaster caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Europe is once again on alert for an infectious threat.
This time, the alarms come from the United Kingdom (UK), which has notified the European Union of the detection of an unusual outbreak of hepatitis - or liver inflammation - of unknown origin that affects children and adolescents.
According to BBC reports, British health officials are currently investigating a total of 74 cases in children across the UK since the start of this year.
Officials are currently examining 49 cases in England, 13 in Scotland and 12 across Wales and Northern Ireland, the majority of which are children between 2 and 5 years of age. Some of them are mild and did not need treatment, but in a small number of cases the development was so harmful that it triggered liver failure and required life-saving transplants.
The United Kingdom shared its concern with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the European body that monitors diseases, to find out if similar outbreaks existed in other countries.
Three cases reported in Madrid
According to the Spanish newspaper ABC, since Monday Spain and other countries of the European Union (EU) are reviewing their medical records to track possible cases of hepatitis of unknown origin.
So far, only the region of Madrid has reported three cases, apparently isolated and unconnected to each other, which have been treated at the La Paz Hospital in the Spanish capital.
The three affected Spanish children are between the ages of 2 and 7 and come from the regions of Madrid, Aragón and Castilla-La Mancha. One of them suffered the most serious development of the disease and needed a liver transplant, as reported by the Ministry of Health of the Community of Madrid.
In similar cases of this type of liver infection, children with hepatitis are transferred to the Madrid hospital for treatment, as it is a reference center for pediatric liver transplants.
'Active observation and search'
The Spanish Ministry of Health has asked the regions, the scientific societies of Pediatrics and hospital management for an "active observation and search" for possible cases of this strange childhood hepatitis. The request states that medical records from the beginning of the year should be reviewed.
Health authorities are trying to find cases of acute hepatitis whose origin is not any of the known viruses that cause the disease. That is, they are not A, B, C, D or E type. They are not related to other known viruses or to the consumption of toxic doses of paracetamol, a drug that in high doses can cause liver failure.
They suspect a viral origin yet to be identified. For now, they have ruled out that they are linked to the coronavirus vaccination or to the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease
In the UK, health authorities have called on parents and guardians to be vigilant for signs of hepatitis, including jaundice or yellowing of the eyes and skin. Other possible symptoms of liver disease can be dark urine, itchy skin, muscle pain, loss of appetite..