On 25 April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that at least one child had died from a mystery strain of severe hepatitis. The following day, it was announced that investigations point towards the F41 strain of adenovirus as the likely cause. Despite this, the UK Health Security Agency said it cannot rule out other possible causes such as Covid-19.
Adenovirus has so far been identified in 40 out of the 53 hepatitis cases tested. While the majority of cases occur in the UK, where they now number 111, there are now 169 cases worldwide. To date, 11 children have received a liver transplant after contracting the disease, with the number of infected children only set to grow.
The world has experienced a global viral pandemic and set up infrastructure in response. These tools can now be proactively leveraged, rather than reactively, before this outbreak becomes any more serious. Tools include open-source genomic sequencing, the WHO’s Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, and the exchange of open source data between countries. There is no need to scramble for resources, or set up resources or lines of communication: the networks already exist.
Countries are already working together to keep each other up-to-date with the latest cases. Public and private investment needs to be put into researching this strain of hepatitis and rapidly bringing the needed drugs to market, leveraging the fast-tracking system used for Covid-19 vaccines and drugs.
This outbreak is affecting some of the most vulnerable members of society. There is no excuse not to address it and work as globally and collaboratively as possible to manage it.