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Adenoviruses

Adenoviruses are common viruses that cause a range of illness. They can cause cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye (conjunctivitis). You can get an adenovirus infection at any age. People with weakened immune systems or existing respiratory or cardiac disease are more likely than others to get very sick from an adenovirus infection.

Symptoms

A little girl in red with flu looking sick.Adenoviruses can cause a wide range of illnesses such as

  • Common cold
  • Sore throat
  • Bronchitis (a condition that occurs when the airways in the lungs become filled with mucus and may spasm, which causes a person to cough and have shortness of breath)
  • Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
  • Diarrhea
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Fever
  • Bladder inflammation or infection
  • Inflammation of stomach and intestines
  • Neurologic disease (conditions that affect the brain and spinal cord)

Adenoviruses can cause mild to severe illness, though serious illness is less common. People with weakened immune systems, or existing respiratory or cardiac disease, are at higher risk of developing severe illness from an adenovirus infection.

Transmission

Girl lying in bed coughing.Adenoviruses are usually spread from an infected person to others through

  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • the air by coughing and sneezing
  • touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

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.

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.

Prevention & Treatment

Prevention

There is currently no adenovirus vaccine available to the general public.

A vaccine specific for adenovirus types 4 and 7 was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March 2011, for use only in U.S. military personnel who may be at higher risk for infection from these two adenovirus types. For more information about the vaccine, see Adenovirus Vaccine Information Statement (VIS).

Follow simple steps to protect yourself and others

You can protect yourself and others from adenoviruses and other respiratory illnesses by following a few simple steps:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (see CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! )
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

If you’re sick you can help protect others:

  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils with others
  • Refrain from kissing others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom

Frequent handwashing is especially important in childcare settings and healthcare facilities.

Maintain proper chlorine levels to prevent outbreaks

Adenoviruses are resistant to many common disinfectant products and can remain infectious for long periods on surfaces and objects. It is important to keep adequate levels of chlorine in swimming pools to prevent outbreaks of conjunctivitis caused by adenoviruses. For guidance to prevent adenovirus infections in healthcare settings, see Prevention & Treatment for Health Care Professionals.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for people with adenovirus infection. Most adenovirus infections are mild and may require only care to help relieve symptoms.

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