Adenovirus

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Adenovirus facts

  • Adenoviruses are extremely common viruses that infect humans at any time of year.
  • The viruses can cause a number of different illnesses, although respiratory disease and conjunctivitis are among the most common.
  • Most infections are asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause symptoms and signs. When symptoms and signs do occur, they are usually mild. Serious illness is rare, but people with weakened immune systems or those living in communal facilities may be at increased risk for illness.
  • There is no specific treatment for adenovirus infections.
  • Adenovirus infection can spread by direct contact with an infected person, by breathing infected air droplets, by touching contaminated surfaces, or by contact with the stool of an infected person.
  • Adenoviruses can survive for long period at room temperature and on surfaces outside of the human host.
  • A vaccine for two types of adenovirus is available for U.S. military personnel but only for those who may be at greater risk for respiratory infection from these virus types. There is no vaccine available to the public.

What is an adenovirus?

Adenoviruses are common viruses that cause a variety of illnesses in humans. Most commonly, they cause respiratory tract infections or conjunctivitis (inflammation of the lining of the eyes). Adenoviruses are very hardy and can survive for long periods outside of a host human or animal. Both animals and human get adenovirus infections. Adenoviruses can infect different organs within the body, but most infections do not produce signs or symptoms (are asymptomatic).

What are the types of adenovirus, and what illnesses do adenoviruses cause?

There are 52 types of adenovirus that specialized blood tests can distinguish. These are serotypes. As discussed previously, most adenovirus infections do not cause symptoms or signs, and many infections that do produce symptoms only cause a mild illness. Serious infections, respiratory diseases, and illnesses are rare. Immunocompromised patients may be at greater risk.

Some of the illnesses that adenovirus serotypes can cause include the following:

Coughing is a common symptom of an adenovirus infection.

Adenovirus Infection Symptom

Cough

Cough is a rapid expulsion of air from the lungs typically in order to clear the lung airways of fluids, mucus, or material. Cough is also called tussis. Cough can be categorized as acute (less than three weeks) or chronic (greater than three weeks).

Chronic cough has many possible causes, including infectious and noninfectious conditions and diseases.

How does the adenovirus spread?

There are several ways that an adenovirus infection spreads from person to person. Close contact with an infected person, such as touching, is a common way the infection spreads. It can also spread by droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Since the virus can live outside the body, you can also get an adenovirus infection by touching a surface contaminated with the virus. Some kinds of adenovirus spread through the stool of an infected person (fecal-oral route), and contaminated water exposure, such as swimming pools, may transmit some types. People infected with an adenovirus may shed the virus even after their symptoms and signs disappear.

What are adenovirus infection symptoms and signs?

Virus-specific signs and symptoms depend on the exact illness caused by the virus (see above). Respiratory infections caused by adenovirus can cause runny nose, congestion, sore throat, fever, or cough. Symptoms and signs of pinkeye include redness of the eyes, watering eyes, and itching. Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting may result from an infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Bladder infections can cause pain or burning with urination.

What are adenovirus infection treatment options?

There are no drugs that are specific for adenoviral infections, and treatment of an adenovirus infection involves treating the symptoms and signs of the individual illness. Since most illnesses are mild and self-limited, often people do not require treatment from a healthcare provider.

Is it possible to prevent adenovirus infection? Is there an adenovirus vaccine?

You can take steps to help protect yourself from adenovirus infection, although it is likely not possible to completely prevent becoming infected by these common viruses. Avoiding contact with people who are ill, observing good handwashing and hygiene practices, and avoiding touching your nose, mouth, and eyes with unwashed hands can help prevent viral infections.

There is no adenoviral vaccine available for the public. A vaccine specific for adenovirus types 4 and 7 that are common causes of respiratory illness is available for use only in U.S. military recruits, who may be at higher risk for this infection.

Are there current outbreaks of adenovirus infection?

Adenoviral outbreaks can occur at any time of the year. In October 2018, an adenovirus outbreak was reported to cause the deaths of several children (currently, seven have died and 11 more are infected) in a nursing and rehabilitation center in New Jersey. Adenovirus type 7 caused this outbreak.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/25/2018
References
REFERENCES:

Tebruegge, Marc, and Nigel Curtis. "Adenovirus: An Overview for Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialists." The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 31.6 June 2012: 626-627. <https://journals.lww.com/pidj/Fulltext/2012/06000/Adenovirus___An_Overview_for_Pediatric_Infectious.19.aspx>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Adenoviruses." Apr. 26, 2018.<https://www.cdc.gov/adenovirus/index.html>.