Adenovirus has made headlines recently after 30 children (at the time of this writing) died following an outbreak of the virus at a New Jersey pediatric rehabilitation center. Here are some answers to a few common questions you may have about the virus.
What are the symptoms of adenovirus?
Usually, adenovirus has no symptoms or can cause mild cold-like symptoms similar to what you’d see with a common upper respiratory infection. In some cases, it can cause severe cough, like pertussis, in young infants, as well as pharyngitis, conjunctivitis (pink eye), pneumonia or diarrhea. In very severe cases, if the viral infection overwhelms the body, it can cause liver, lung and central nervous system impairment. This is very unusual, however as the virus is generally mild. Adenovirus infections are prevalent throughout the year, unlike other respiratory viruses common during the winter. Reinfection can occur.
Who is most at-risk of catching adenovirus?
Children ages 2 to 4 are most likely to become infected with adenovirus, though people of all ages can suffer from the illness.
What happened with the children in New Jersey?
There are more than 60 different types of adenovirus. The children in New Jersey had Adenovirus 7, a strain that causes respiratory symptoms and is spread among people living in close quarters. The children who died were in a rehabilitation center that cares for medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems, according to the New Jersey Health Commissioner.
How is adenovirus spread?
Adenoviruses can survive on the environmental surface and is not easy to get rid of by disinfectants. The virus is spread in the usual manner — by coughing, sneezing or living on an infected surface. It can also be transmitted in swimming pools if there isn’t enough chlorine to kill the virus.
Is there a vaccine?
There is no vaccine available to the general public (there is a military vaccine), and there is no medication to treat the infection.
What can we do to stay safe?
As always, wash your hands regularly (and make sure your children are washing their hands) and disinfect surfaces.
Pisespong Patamasucon, MD, is a board-certified pediatric infectious disease specialist with Rocky Mountain Pediatric Infectious Disease Consultants.