*Adenovirus facts written by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
- Adenoviruses are very common viruses that infect humans.
- There are many types of adenoviruses.
- Adenovirus infections occur throughout the year.
- In most cases, adenoviruses do not cause any symptoms or signs, but in some people, they cause a range of illnesses including respiratory infections like the common cold, pinkeye, pneumonia, diarrhea, and inflammation of the bladder, intestines, or nervous system.
- Adenovirus is contagious and spreads by contact with infected people, breathing air that contains droplets produced by coughing or sneezing by an infected person, or touching a surface contaminated with the virus.
- There is no vaccine available for the general public, although a vaccine against two types of adenovirus is available for U.S. military personnel.
- Outbreaks of adenovirus infection can occur in anyone at any time of year.
What Is an Adenovirus?
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…
What Are Signs and Symptoms of an Adenovirus Infection?
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)
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
- 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.
How Do Adenovirus Infections Spread?
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.
Adenovirus vaccine is for U.S. military only
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.
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.
There is no specific treatment for people with adenovirus infection. Most adenovirus infections are mild and may require only care to help relieve symptoms.
What Are Reported Outbreaks of Adenovirus Infection?
Outbreaks of adenovirus infection can occur throughout the year. They are usually associated with respiratory illnesses or conjunctivitis.
Reported sporadic cases and outbreaks of adenovirus have included:
- Adenovirus types 3, 4 and 7, which are most commonly associated with acute respiratory disease
- Adenovirus type 14, which since 2007 has been associated with outbreaks of acute respiratory illness among U.S. military recruits and the general public
- Adenovirus types 8, 19, 37, 53, and 54, which can cause epidemic keratoconjunctivitis
- Enteric adenovirus types 40 and 41, which cause gastroenteritis, usually in children
- Some adenoviruses (e.g., 4 and 7) that spread in bodies of water such as small lakes or swimming pools without adequate chlorine and can cause outbreaks of febrile disease with conjunctivitis