Covid-19 has 'no link' to mysterious hepatitis outbreak among children, expert says

Published May 20, 2022, 8:35 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Covid-19 infection and vaccine have “no link” to the current mysterious hepatitis outbreak in foreign countries.

(Courtesy of UP)

“None of the children has received the Covid-19 vaccine so fortunately there has been no link to the Covid-19 vaccination so far,” Dr. Eternity D. Labio, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist, said during a webinar on Friday, May 20.

Entitled “MYSTERIOUS HEPATITIS: May kinalaman ba sa COVID-19?,” the webinar was hosted by the University of the Philippines (UP), in partnership with UP Manila National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH), the UP National Telehealth Center (NTC), and UP Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).

Labio, who is also the Head of the Liver Unit at the Makati Medical Center, said that there is a proportion of the mysterious hepatitis patients who have previously contracted Covid-19 infection but there is no relationship between the two infections as of this time.

This case, Labio said, is also still under further studies and investigation so no definitive conclusion can be made at this point since the “story is evolving.”

“Baka lang nagkataon pero hindi pa sya related (It might be just a coincidence but they’re not yet related),” Labio pointed out.

In mid-April this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a sudden surge of patients with severe acute hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, among children below 16 years old. The origin is still unknown.

There are currently a total of 450 cases reported worldwide, with 11 deaths from Indonesia, Palestine, and the United States.

Invest in testing, treatment

Meanwhile, Labio called on the Philippine government to invest in testing and treatment services for hepatitis — noting that “health shouldn’t be seen as an expense but really an investment.”

Pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Juliet Sio-Aguilar also reiterated the importance of giving hepatitis vaccines to newborn children as well as to adults, particularly healthcare workers as they are constantly exposed to a high-risk setting.

Aguilar is a former Professor of Pediatrics at UPM and an active consultant at St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Hepatitis B remains one of the main causes of liver cancer in the Philippines. This is among the top four most common cancers among Filipinos as per the Globocan 2018 data. (Luisa Cabato)