Sask. health officials investigating recent hepatitis cases

Saskatchewan is investigating recent incidents of hepatitis to determine if they are related to acute cases of “unknown origin” being reported around the world.

In a statement to CTV News, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health said cases are being reviewed to confirm if they meet the criteria being developed by Canadian health officials.

Last week, the Public Health Agency of Canada said it is aware of reports of potential cases of severe acute hepatitis in young children in Canada. Those cases have not been confirmed, but are under investigation by local public health authorities.

“Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Clinical investigation including laboratory testing is required to determine whether the cause is viral hepatitis (A-E), another cause, or ‘unknown origin,’” the ministry said in a statement.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said more than 200 cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin were reported in 20 countries around the world, as of May 3. The majority are in the United Kingdom, which was the first country to report cases to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO hypothesized that adenovirus could be a possible cause, but investigations are ongoing.

Acute hepatitis is when the liver function is impaired for less than six months. Chronic hepatitis is when the inflammation lasts longer.

Some cases of hepatitis can be severe – even fatal – if left untreated. Other cases can be mild and require no treatment.

The province said parents and caregivers should be aware of hepatitis symptoms.

Symptoms include: “fever, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain; itchy skin, joint and/or muscle pain, lethargy and or loss of appetite, jaundice (yellow skin and/or eyes), discolouration of urine (dark) and/or feces (pale),” according to the Ministry of Health.

The WHO said side effects from COVID-19 vaccines are not a suspected cause for these cases.

With files from