Alberta reporting two probable cases of mystery liver disease in patients under 16

·2 min read

EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says there are two probable cases of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children in the province.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says both children are under 16.

She says one of the patients was treated, discharged from hospital and is doing well.

Hinshaw says the other patient remains in hospital.

She says she cannot provide more details due to patient confidentiality.

Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children said Tuesday it had identified seven probable cases of the liver disease.

The hospital, also known as SickKids, said the mysterious cases were identified between Oct. 1, 2021, and April 30, 2022, and reported to Public Health Ontario.

SickKids said it remains to be seen whether that number is an increase in cases of unknown origin compared with similar periods in previous years, or if any of the cases will be confirmed to have a new cause.

Manitoba also said a probable case was reported in that province in recent weeks.

Hinshaw said Alberta shared information late last week with clinicians on what to look for and how to report severe acute hepatitis of unknown cause in children.

The province has been working closely with federal, provincial and territorial officials to monitor emerging information, she said.

"We've also been working to align our reporting criteria with the other provinces and territories — in this case the current World Health Organization and Public Health Agency of Canada definitions," she said at a news conference.

"This will allow us to consistently report case information to the federal government and help contribute to the global body of work to understand more about this condition."

The definition for possible cases is broad, Hinshaw said, as any child with severe liver inflammation with unknown cause is being counted.

"I'd like to make it clear to parents that this reporting does not necessarily mean that there is an elevated risk in the community or that you should take different steps if your children are sick."

The World Health Organization said last week it had reports of almost 300 probable cases in 20 countries. More than 100 possible cases have emerged among children in the United States, including five deaths.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said this week that even before the pandemic, about half of all pediatric hepatitis cases that are severe would have no known cause.

Federal health officials are still investigating whether any of these cases are linked in any way, she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2022.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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