Adenoviruses are a group of common viruses. These viruses can cause the common cold, fever, bronchitis, sore throat, diarrhea, and pink eye.
Anyone can get sick from an adenovirus. People with a weakened immune system, or those who have lung or heart problems are more likely to become very sick from an adenovirus.
These viruses are easily spread from person to person.
People usually get sick with adenoviruses when they spend time with large groups of people (for example, universities, hospitals, or schools).
It is important to take steps to protect yourself and others from these viruses.
Causes and Transmission
Adenoviruses can make you sick any time of the year. Usually adenoviruses cause mild illness, but sometimes they can be serious. If you have a weakened immune system, or have lung or heart problems, you are more likely to get very sick from an adenovirus.
There are a number of ways you can get an adenovirus:
- Breathing in adenovirus from the air: someone with the virus coughs or sneezes and the virus gets into the air. It is then breathed in by someone around them.
- Having direct contact with someone who has an adenovirus: touching or shaking hands with someone who has the virus on their skin and then touching your hands to your mouth, nose, or eyes.
- Touching surfaces with adenovirus: touching a surface (for example, a door knob, counter top, or phone) with adenovirus on it and then touching your hands to mouth, nose, or eyes. NOTE: Adenoviruses are able to survive on surfaces for a long time. It is important to wash toys, towels, and other surfaces often to make sure it doesn't spread to others.
- Having contact with poop: Some adenoviruses can spread through poop, for example, during diaper changing.
- Having contact with water that has adenovirus: Adenoviruses can also spread through water, such as swimming pools, but this is less common.
NOTE: Sometimes the virus can be shed (released from the body) for a long time after you recover from an adenovirus, especially if you have a weakened immune system. Usually you do not have any symptoms during this time of “virus shedding,” even though you can still spread adenovirus to others.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms usually start two days to two weeks after getting an adenovirus. Adenoviruses are common causes of fevers and other illnesses, such as:
- Common cold
- Sore throat
- Bladder infection
- Neurologic disease (illnesses that affect your brain and spinal cord)
- Diarrhea (usually in children younger than 4 years)
The types of symptoms depend on which type of adenovirus you have and the part of the body that the virus is affecting.
Most people with an adenovirus will get better without treatment. Medicines can be taken to help with symptoms.
No vaccine is available to the general public to prevent adenoviruses. There is currently an adenovirus vaccine for U.S. military use only. (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)).
Adenoviruses can spread easily to others. Follow these steps to protect yourself and those around you from adenoviruses and other respiratory illnesses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Do not have close contact with people who are sick.
If you’re sick, you can help to protect others:
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Do not share cups and eating utensils with others.
- Do not kiss others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, or coughing.
- Washing your hands often is especially important in child care settings and health care facilities.
- Food workers with diarrhea or vomiting should stay home for 24 hours after they are well so they do not spread the virus to others.
- About Adenoviruses: CDC webpage including information on symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
- Wash Your Hands!, P-01710 (multiple languages): Flyer with instructions on how to properly wash hands.
- Is it the flu, a cold, or whooping cough?, P-02263 (PDF): Flyer outlining the differences between the flu, a cold, and whooping cough.
- Adenovirus information for health care professionals: CDC page with information on the clinical overview, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of adenoviruses.
- Specimen Collection and Laboratory Testing: CDC page with information for health care professionals on types of specimens to collect for laboratory testing.
- Adenovirus Outbreak Information: CDC page with information for health care professionals regarding adenovirus outbreaks.
- Reporting and Surveillance of Adenoviruses: CDC page with information for health care professionals on how to report cases and outbreaks of adenoviruses.