What is Acute Hepatitis and Why is it Occurring in Children?

by Dr. Veerendra Sandur

A new medical mystery has kept the world's health experts on their toes just when we thought the COVID pandemic would be over for good. Recently, children under the age of five have been experiencing an increase in acute hepatitis or liver inflammation. According to a statement from the WHO, 348 probable cases have been reported so far in 21 different countries, with 26 children needing liver transplants. While the exact cause of the illnesses is still unknown, adenovirus, which was found in 75% of confirmed cases, is thought to be a leading cause.

What causes hepatitis in a child?

Hepatitis in children can be brought on by a variety of factors. Being exposed to a virus that causes hepatitis can afflict the child with the disease. The viruses that cause this condition include:

  • Hepatitis of five different types: A, B, C, D, and E
  • Cytomegalovirus, a virus that belongs to the herpes virus family
  • Epstein-Barr infection, a virus that is the major reason for mononucleosis
  • The herpes simplex virus can affect the genital area, the skin on the face, or the skin above the waist
  • Varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox), may cause hepatitis due to complications, but it hardly affects children.
  • Enteroviruses, a particular group of viruses that frequently affects children, including Echoviruses and Coxsackieviruses
  • Rubella is a minor illness that results in a rash
  • Adenovirus, cause colds, tonsillitis, and ear infections in children; they might also result in diarrhea
  • Parvovirus, Which leads to a bright red rash on the cheek as one of the symptoms.

Children can develop hepatitis due to various conditions. Autoimmune liver disease is one of the factors. The immune system produces antibodies that target the liver in this illness, which leads to inflammation resulting in hepatitis.

Which children are at risk of acute hepatitis?

Acute hepatitis is more likely to strike children who are exposed to a hepatitis virus. Five main hepatitis viruses can cause acute viral hepatitis:

Hepatitis A:

  • This virus is transmitted through facel-oral contact. Children are exposed to it in the following ways:
  • Consuming food prepared by a sick person who does not thoroughly wash their hands after using the restroom
  • Consuming water that has been tainted by pathogenic feces—this is an issue in underdeveloped nations
  • Placing your hands close to your mouth after touching feces or a dirty diaper on an infected person—child care facilities might experience such outbreaks
  • Visiting countries where hepatitis A is prevalent
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Transfusions of blood (very rare).

Hepatitis B

When blood from an infected person is in contact with the body of another person, hepatitis B is transmitted. Sharp objects and needlesticks have the potential to spread them. Sharing personal items like toothbrushes and razors can also spread it.

If a mother has the virus, her unborn child may contract it while she is pregnant. Through household contact or scrapes or cuts, children can spread it to others.

The following types of children are susceptible to contracting hepatitis B:

  • Children born to hepatitis B-infected mothers
  • Infants whose mothers were born in a nation where hepatitis B is common
  • Children with disabilities or those who reside in long-term care facilities
  • Children who reside in homes where a virus-infected person also resides
  • Children who require blood products due to a blood clotting disorder—hemophilia is one such condition
  • Children with kidney failure who require dialysis
  • Teenagers who engage in risky activities—include unprotected sex and intravenous (IV) drug use.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C spreads through the blood that is infected. Additionally, it can spread through sexual contact. Pregnant mothers can also pass it on to their unborn children. The following children are susceptible to contracting hepatitis C:

  • Children with a blood clotting disorder like haemophilia
  • Children who need dialysis for kidney failure
  • Children whose mothers are infected with the virus
  • Teenagers who engage in unprotected sex and IV drug use.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis B is the only virus that can cause this kind of hepatitis. Hepatitis D can develop later or at the same time your child is affected by hepatitis B. An unborn child cannot be affected by hepatitis D from its mother.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is similar to hepatitis A. It is transmitted via fecal-oral contact. The majority of hepatitis E cases occur in developing nations.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

The most typical signs and symptoms of hepatitis are listed below. However, each child's symptom experience may vary, and some children might not have any symptoms at all.

  • Acute (rapid onset) hepatitis symptoms can include the following:
  • Flu-like signs
  • Symptoms of jaundice, including yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • General malaise
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Sore muscles
  • Itchy red hives on the skin
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Dark urine.

Later signs include jaundice and urine with a dark color (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Hepatitis symptoms can resemble those of other illnesses or conditions. For a diagnosis, always consult the best hepatologist in Bangalore.

How is acute hepatitis treated in a child?

The children's symptoms, age, and general health will all affect the course of treatment. Furthermore, it will depend on how serious the condition is.

The method of treatment for children will depend on the cause of their hepatitis. The purpose of treatment is to halt liver damage in children. Additionally, it helps reduce symptoms. The following treatments might be given:

  • Supportive treatment: This includes a balanced diet and getting enough sleep
  • Reducing risk: This includes abstaining from alcohol and illegal drugs
  • Blood analysis: This can show how quickly the illness is spreading
  • Hospitalization: This is recommended only during severe conditions
  • Liver transplantation: This treatment is given for advanced liver failure
  • Helping to stop the virus from spreading: This includes practising good personal hygiene, like washing your. hands.


1. What is the cause known of Acute Hepatitis?

Acute hepatitis is caused by Hepatitis A virus infection.

2. What is the first sign of acute hepatitis disease?

Some of the early signs and symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain or discomfort.

3. Which hepatitis virus causes acute hepatitis?

The most common cause of acute hepatitis is the hepatitis A virus, followed by the hepatitis B virus.

4. Is acute hepatitis contagious?

Hepatitis A can be spread through close contact with an infected person, such as through providing care for an ill person, specific sexual interactions (such as oral–anal sex) or sharing drugs with others.

5. How long does acute hepatitis last?

With supportive therapy that includes IV fluids, antiemetics, and symptomatic relief, acute hepatitis can resolve in 2–4 weeks.