Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – North Sumatra's Medan Health Agency has reported the suspected hepatitis-linked death of a 2-year-old child as cases of an unidentified type of childhood hepatitis have emerged across the country.
The agency also reported a suspected case in an 8-month-old baby who was receiving treatment for the disease.
Medan Health Agency head Ismail Lubis said on Tuesday that the child, who was from the provincial capital, died at St. Elisabeth Hospital after being treated for severe symptoms.
"The child was admitted with nausea, vomiting, fever and yellow eyes and loss of consciousness," said Ismail.
To ascertain whether the child had hepatitis, the agency sent a specimen to the University of Indonesia for testing.
Meanwhile, Adam Malik Central General Hospital was currently treating an infant with similar symptoms at a special intensive care facility. "The hospital has also sent a specimen to Jakarta for testing," Ismail said.
Fajrinur, an official at Adam Malik hospital, confirmed the case, saying the infant from Deli Serdang regency was admitted on Sunday.
"The baby was losing consciousness with yellowing of the skin, nausea and vomiting," he said, adding that the patient also had gastrointestinal problems including diarrhea, fever and a history of convulsions.
The Health Ministry announced on Sunday it was investigating four child deaths thought to be connected to the "mystery" hepatitis: one in Tulungagung, East Java, and three in Jakarta.
Spokesperson Siti Nadia Tarmizi told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the ministry was conducting laboratory tests to determine the cause of death and whether the four cases involved acute hepatitis of unknown origin that has been affecting children across various parts of the world.
A 2-month-old infant showing symptoms of acute hepatitis died last week at Hermina Padang Hospital in West Sumatra's provincial capital. The Health Ministry has not said if it planned to investigate the death.
According to the ministry, 15 confirmed pediatric cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin since it launched an investigation into the illness.
The first five pediatric cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin were detected in October 2021 at a hospital in Alabama, the United States, where they were admitted with liver damage.
Since then, more than 200 suspected and probable cases have been reported in 20 countries, including Indonesia.
More than half of the cases were in the United Kingdom, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare an outbreak of "acute hepatitis of unknown origin" on April 15. The affected children ranged from 1 month to 16 years old.
Muzal Kadim of the Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI) said that good personal hygiene, such as frequent handwashing and mask-wearing, as well as food safety, remained critical to preventing acute childhood hepatitis.
"Hepatitis viruses generally spread through droplets of saliva and eating contaminated food [...]," he said.