What is the 41F adenovirus that could be causing cases of hepatitis in children?


VIRUSES are always circulating and can cause nasty symptoms.

Dozens of kids have been struck down with hepatitis all over the world, and experts think it could be down to a strain of adenorvirus.


Adenoviruses can cause cold-like symptoms in people, but one strain has been linked to hepatitisCredit: Getty

There are around 50 mutations of the bug but experts at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) say it could be the 41F strain.

Hepatitis is an extremely rare side effect of the virus, with 114 kids in the UK having tested for the illness.

Most children who have been catching 41F have been having symptoms such as sickness and diarrhoea, following by yellowing of the skin (jaundice).

But what is the virus and how is it linked to hepatitis?

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Adenoviruses are common and can cause a range of symptoms in people.

These include:

  • common cold and flu symptoms
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • bronchitis
  • pneumonia
  • conjunctivitis
  • gastro issues such as sickness and diarrhoea.

Serious illness is less common with the viruses, but people with weakened immune systems or existing respiratory or cardiac disease are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms.

Less common signs include bladder inflammation or infection and issues that affect that brain or spinal cord.

Hepatitis is a rare side effect.

Hygiene is important when it comes to adenorviruses as they are spread through close personal contact such as touching.

Just like Covid, they can also be spread through coughing and sneezing and by touching surfaces with adenoviruses.

“Some adenoviruses can spread through an infected person’s stool, for example, during diaper changing. Adenovirus can also spread through the water, such as swimming pools, but this is less common,” the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) said.

“Sometimes the virus can be shed (released from the body) for a long time after a person recovers from an adenovirus infection, especially among people who have weakened immune systems.

“This ‘virus shedding’ usually occurs without any symptoms, even though the person can still spread adenovirus to other people.”

There are many different types of adenorviruses and the one health officials are currently looking into is 41F.

They can all cause different signs but 40 and 41, are known to trigger gastroenteritis, usually in children.

How is it linked to hepatitis?

A report from the UKHSA outlined several different reasons for the hepatitis outbreak.

This included a link to the coronavirus lockdowns, which meant that kids had not been exposed to the virus.

The UKHSA is also investigating whether or not prior Covid infections could be a reason.

It found that 75 per cent of the children with hepatitis also had adenovirus.

The report said: “Preliminary typing of the adenovirus has been consistent with type 41F where data is available from blood samples, however other adenovirus types have also been identified in non-blood samples.”

Routine data scans had picked up common viruses circulating in children are currently higher than in previous years, with a marked increase of adenovirus in the 1-4 age group.

The symptoms of hepatitis to look out for

Hepatitis symptoms include:

  • yellowing of the white part of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • dark urine
  • pale, grey-coloured faeces (poo)
  • itchy skin
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high temperature
  • feeling and being sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • tummy pain

Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at UKHSA, said: “Information gathered through our investigations increasingly suggests that this rise in sudden onset hepatitis in children is linked to adenovirus infection.

“However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.

“Parents and guardians should be alert to the signs of hepatitis (including jaundice) and to contact a healthcare professional if they are concerned.

“Normal hygiene measures such as thorough handwashing (including supervising children) and good thorough respiratory hygiene, help to reduce the spread of many common infections, including adenovirus.

“Children experiencing symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection including vomiting and diarrhoea should stay at home and not return to school or nursery until 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.”

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It’s important to note that the children who tested positive for hepatitis did not have any underlying health conditions and just 16 per cent had also tested positive for Covid.

This is a relatively normal figure due to the high prevalence of cases between January and April.

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