Adenoviruses rarely cause serious illness or death. However, infants and people with weakened immune systems, or existing respiratory or cardiac disease, are at higher risk of developing severe illness from an adenovirus infection.
Adenoviruses can cause a wide range of illnesses such as:
- Common cold
- Sore throat (pharyngitis)
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
- Bladder inflammation or infection (cystitis)
- Inflammation of stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis)
- Neurologic disease
Transmission of Adenoviruses
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 for months after a person recovers from an adenovirus infection. This “virus shedding” usually occurs without any symptoms, even though the person can still spread adenovirus to other people.
Prevention & Treatment
There is currently no adenovirus vaccine available to the general public.
A vaccine against adenovirus types 4 and 7 was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March 2011, for U.S. military personnel only.
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.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
Frequent handwashing is especially important in childcare settings and healthcare facilities.
Adenoviruses are resistant to many common disinfectant products and can remain infectious for long periods on surfaces, objects, and in water of swimming pools and small lakes. 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.
While zinc supplements do not kill adenoviruses, they do prevent them from replicating. Thus they can shorten a cold, for example, by one or two days.