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Severe acute hepatitis cases in children draw concern in Indonesia

May 06, 2022

Jakarta [Indonesia] May 6: Indonesia has alerted its public on the dangers of severe acute hepatitis following the deaths of three children from a mysterious liver disease last month.
The country's Health Ministry was currently conducting laboratory investigations into the deaths of the three children, which is likely similar to a severe acute hepatitis outbreak that has sickened hundreds of children in more than a dozen countries.
The three children, aged two, eight and 11, died in a hospital in Jakarta between mid and late April after being referred from smaller hospitals in the capital city. The hospital workers found the children showing symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting and jaundice that is marked by the skin or the whites of the eyes turning yellow. These symptoms were also found in clusters of unexplained hepatitis cases that have emerged among children across the world.
In addition to those symptoms, the children, according to the ministry, also experienced fever, nausea, convulsions and loss of consciousness.
"The three patients arrived (at the hospital) when their conditions were already at an advanced stage. So, health workers did not have enough time to take rescue action," the ministry's spokesperson Siti Nadia Tarmizi said during a virtual joint press briefing on Thursday.
To identify the risk factors for the disease in the three cases, the ministry, Tarmizi said, had conducted contact tracing investigations and found the children had no family history of hepatitis.
She added that the children were also tested negative for COVID-19. "The two-year-old had not received COVID-19 vaccination, while the others already had their vaccinations," Tarmizi said.
At the press briefing, paediatrician HanifahOswari from the Indonesian Paediatricians Association (IDAI) said that acute hepatitis with severe symptoms is mysterious because its risk factors were still unknown. Severe symptoms that arise display at the same time and quickly, he added.
"Actually, there are a lot of acute hepatitis in Indonesia, but specifically for severe acute hepatitis, we don't know the cause of the disease yet," Oswari said, adding that people should stay cautious and maintain personal hygiene.
"Basically, it is the same as preventing COVID-19, maintaining distance, wearing masks and avoiding crowds," he said.
The Health Ministry has alerted city and district administrations across the country about the disease, instructing them to monitor and report any suspected cases of unexplained acute hepatitis in children.
It has also instructed the SuliantiSaroso Infectious Diseases Hospital in the northern part of Jakarta to be the referral hospital for patients with acute hepatitis with severe symptoms. Meanwhile, the University of Indonesia has been assigned to conduct blood testing on the patients.
In response to the emerging acute disease, the IDAI and the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) instructed doctors, paediatricians as well as health workers under the two organizations to be cautious about any hepatitis symptoms found in their patients and constantly monitor these cases.
"The IDI and IDAI fully support the efforts of the government and will coordinate with our medical experts to run an investigation into any suspected cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin," the groups said in a statement on Tuesday.
Source: Xinhua