Is hepatitis contagious? How do you catch illness, and symptoms in children explained amid global outbreak

There are several different types of hepatitis

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There has been a recent global outbreak of cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in children, with 169 reported in 12 countries.

The UK, US, Spain, Israel, and Ireland have seen infections among children aged from one month to 16 years, with the UK reporting 114 cases.

There are several different types of hepatitisThere are several different types of hepatitis
There are several different types of hepatitis

But is hepatitis contagious and how is it spread?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the liver and can affect people of all ages.

In children, it is usually caused by a viral infection, but in adults it can also be the result of liver damage caused by drinking alcohol.

There are several different types of hepatitis. Some types will pass without any serious problems, while others can be long-lasting and may cause scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis and could result in the loss of liver function and, in some cases, liver cancer.

Hepatitis may occur in children for a number of reasons, including common viral infections.

It is not known what type of hepatitis is associated with the new cases being investigated, but health officials have said it is increasingly likely that it is a virus known as adenovirus.

Is hepatitis contagious?

Hepatitis is spread in different ways depending on the type, but Hepatitis B, which is spread in the blood of an infected person, is a common infection worldwide and is usually spread from infected pregnant women to their babies, or from child-to-child contact, according to the NHS.

Hepatitis A is usually caught by consuming food and drink contaminated with the poo of an infected person, and is most common in countries where sanitation is poor.

Hepatitis C is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person.

Hepatitis D only affects people who are already infected with hepatitis B, as it needs the hepatitis B virus to be able to survive in the body.

Hepatitis D is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact or sexual contact.

Hepatitis E has been mainly associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked pork meat or offal, but also with wild boar meat, venison and shellfish.

What are the symptoms?

Hepatitis symptoms 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

The symptoms of the disease may first look like symptoms of other health problems.

If you are concerned about your child, you should seek advice from your GP.

If you live in England, Scotland, or Wales you can call NHS 111 for advice.

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