Hospitalized child (illustrative)
Hospitalized child (illustrative)iStock

Following requests by the Health Ministry that the directors of Israel's hospitals and four HMOs report pediatric cases of unexplained acute hepatitis, twelve instances of children hospitalized in the past few months were brought to the Ministry's attention.

All of the children were hospitalized in the past two months in two hospitals: Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The Health Ministry has received the reports, which are being examined by professionals.

On Tuesday, following reports of unusual instances pediatric hepatitis in the UK and Denmark, Israel's Health Ministry requested that medical staff be alert to symptoms which may indicate the illness and send focused reports to the Ministry.

A WHO announcement from April 15 reads, "On 5 April 2022, WHO was notified of 10 cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology in children under the age of 10 years, across central Scotland. By 8 April, 74 cases had been identified in the United Kingdom."

"Of these 10 cases, nine had onset of symptoms in March 2022 while one case had an onset of symptoms in January 2022. Symptoms included jaundice, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain. All 10 cases were detected when hospitalized."

"Laboratory testing has excluded hepatitis type A, B, C, and E viruses (and D where applicable) in these cases while severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and/or adenovirus have been detected in several cases," the WHO statement continued. "The United Kingdom has recently observed an increase in adenovirus activity, which is co-circulating with SARS-CoV-2, though the role of these viruses in the pathogenesis (mechanism by which disease develops) is not yet clear."

"No other epidemiological risk factors have been identified to date, including recent international travel. Overall, the aetiology of the current hepatitis cases is still considered unknown and remains under active investigation. Laboratory testing for additional infections, chemicals and toxins is underway for the identified cases."

"There are no cases in Israel of acute hepatitis in children," the Health Ministry said. "Following the announcement by the World Health Organization regarding cases in the world of acute hepatitis from an unknown source (published about ten days ago), the Health Ministry examined the issue with the Israel Pediatric Association and the Israel Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and there were no cases in Israel."

"Accordingly, an official instruction was put out by the Ministry to the directors of the HMOs and hospitals to report any instance. As of now there were no reports to the Health Ministry of cases such as these in Israel."

Meanwhile, the UK has seen over 70 cases of the unexplained hepatitis in children under age 16, and similar cases were found in the US and Spain. Most - but not all - of the cases were found in children aged 2-5. Some of these children are suffering liver failure and require transplants. None of the children have died yet, and scientists are examining whether the hepatitis may be connected to recovery from coronavirus.