Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that can infect the membranes (tissue linings) of the respiratory tract, eyes, intestines, urinary tract, and nervous system. They account for about 10% of fever-related illnesses and acute respiratory infections in kids and are a frequent cause of diarrhea.
Adenoviral infections affect babies and young children much more often than adults. Childcare centers and schools sometimes have multiple cases of respiratory infections and diarrhea caused by adenovirus.
Adenoviral infections can occur at any time of the year, but:
- respiratory tract problems caused by adenovirus are more common in late winter, spring, and early summer
- conjunctivitis (pinkeye) and pharyngoconjunctival fever caused by adenovirus tend to affect older kids, mostly in the summer
Adenoviral infections can affect children of any age, but most occur in the first years of life — and most kids have had at least one before age 10. There are many different types of adenoviruses, so some kids can have repeated adenoviral infections.
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
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.
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. For more information about the vaccine, see Adenovirus Vaccine Information Statement (VIS).
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!).
- 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 infections 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.