Three children in Indonesia died of athe country’s health ministry said, bringing the global death toll from a deadly disease that baffles doctors from the United States to Asia to at least four.
This severe strain of acute hepatitis has been identified in nearly 170 children in 11 countries in recent weeks, raising concerns from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the “unknown origin” of the disease.
Symptoms that plague children include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain before their livers showed signs of inflammation. At least one death had previously been reported by WHO.
The Indonesian health ministry said in a statement Monday that three children had died in hospitals in the capital Jakarta last month after showing some of these symptoms.
The children also had fever, jaundice, seizures, and loss of consciousness, she said.
“At the moment, the ministry of health is investigating the cause of acute hepatitis by running a comprehensive panel of virus tests,” he said.
The ministry also urged parents to take their children to the hospital immediately if they showed signs of symptoms.
The emergence of a possible new disease affecting only young children – most are under the age of 10 with no underlying conditions – has sparked ripples of concern in a global health community already struggling with COVID-19.
The WHO said there was an “unexpected significant increase” in cases among young, previously healthy children in Britain, as well as in Ireland and the Netherlands.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study on a cluster in Alabama on Friday, in which nine children also tested positive for a common pathogen called adenovirus 41.
The pathogen is known to cause gastroenteritis in children, but “it is not usually known to cause hepatitis in otherwise healthy children,” the agency said.
Last month, the CDC issued a nationwide health warning asking parents and providers to keep an eye on symptoms and report any cases of hepatitis for no reason to local and state health departments.
“The CDC is working with state health departments to see if there are additional cases in the United States and what could cause these cases,” the CDC said in the notice. “We continue to recommend that children be up to date on all their vaccinations and that parents and caregivers of young children take the same daily preventative actions that we recommend to everyone, including washing their hands often, avoiding sick people, covering up coughs and sneezing, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. “
Adenoviruses are commonly spread by close personal contact, respiratory droplets, and surfaces. There are more than 50 types of adenoviruses, which most commonly cause colds, but also many other diseases.