UKHSA warns parents to look out for signs of hepatitis and jaundice in children after more than 70 cases in England and Scotland
Parents are being warned to look out for the signs and symptoms of hepatitis in their children after a mystery, and so-far unexplained, spike in the number of youngsters falling ill.
Itchy skin, muscle and joint pain and a lack of appetite are among the signs and symptoms associated with the liver condition.
Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver and can occur for a number of reasons, most likely as a result of one of several common viral conditions they can pick-up.
However of the 60 cases reported in England, alongside a further 10 in Scotland, none of the common viruses known to lead to hepatitis have been detected in the young patients who are aged under 10.
The so-far unexplained cause, and lack of an obvious link between the numbers, has prompted a warning from health officials who have launched an investigation and say they are now 'working swiftly' to investigate a possible cause.
The UK Health Security Agency, alongside the NHS and public health officials is looking at reported cases in both England and Scotland while health officials north of the border say the speed and spread of the cases made the outbreaks 'unusual'.
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, said: "Investigations for a wide range of potential causes are underway, 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. This will also help us to build a better picture of what may be causing the cases."
The signs and symptoms of hepatitis in children can include:
* dark urine
* pale, grey-coloured poo
* itchy skin
* yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
* muscle and joint pain
* a high temperature
* feeling and being sick
* feeling unusually tired all the time
* loss of appetite
* tummy pain
Parents with concerns about their children's health should contact a health professional, say those investigating.
Dr Chand added: "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."