The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is asking parents to look out for signs of jaundice in children following higher than usual rates of hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children, with no obvious cause yet identified.
Around 60 hepatitis cases in children under 10 are currently under investigation in England, with a further 11 under investigation by Public Health Scotland since March. Usually in Scotland, there would be around 7-8 cases in a year in patients without underlying conditions.
At the moment, the cause of the rise in cases is unclear. Several common viruses that cause hepatitis have not been detected, according to UKHSA.
"Investigations for a wide range of potential causes are underway, including any possible links to infectious diseases," Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, said in a statement.
"We are working with partners to raise awareness among healthcare professionals, so that any further children who may be affected can be identified early and the appropriate tests carried out. This will also help us to build a better picture of what may be causing the cases."
Officials at Public Health Scotland called the spike in cases "unusual", and noted that they had not yet found a link between the cases, Manchester Evening News reports.
"If you have a child who is showing signs of jaundice, where the skin has a yellow tinge and is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes, then parents should contact their GP or other healthcare professional," Dr Nicholas Phin, director of public health at Public Health Scotland added.
According to the UKHSA, symptoms of liver inflammation 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
Any parents or carers concerned about their child displaying symptoms linked with hepatitis are urged to see their GP, or another appropriate specialist.