2 Indonesian children die of acute hepatitis, raising death toll to 6

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Two children in Sumatra sadly passed away after exhibiting acute hepatitis symptoms, officials said, bringing Indonesia’s death toll from cases suspected to be linked to a disease with unknown etiology to six.

The Health Ministry confirmed today that a 2-month-old in Solok, West Sumatra suspected of contracting the disease has died. The infant’s death brought the ministry’s death toll from acute hepatitis to five. Three deaths were previously reported in Jakarta and one death in East Java’s Tulungagung.

Several hours later, the North Sumatra Health Agency reported that a two-year-old child from the province’s capital of Medan died in hospital. The child had displayed symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, jaundice, and loss of consciousness.

“But to confirm that the patient was infected by the mysterious hepatitis, we have to conduct tests in Jakarta,” the agency’s head Ismail Lubis said.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in a press briefing yesterday the government has detected 15 suspected acute hepatitis cases since April 27. The government, he added, is working with the World Health Organization and other affected nations to determine the cause of the disease.

The top health official advised regular hand washing to prevent further spreading as the virus may be most transmissible via food consumption. Parents are advised to be vigilant towards early symptoms associated with the disease, such as diarrhea and fever.

WHO reported that an outbreak of acute hepatitis — an inflammation of the liver — has killed a number of children worldwide. The UK has detected more than 100 suspected cases — the most of any country thus far.

The affected children range between one month old and 16 years old, with many of them under the age of 10. 

While the cause is yet to be determined, investigators are believed to be studying a family of pathogens called adenoviruses that cause a range of illnesses such as the common cold.

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