Adenoviruses are a family of viruses that can infect people of all ages. These infections most often affect the upper respiratory tract. They are slightly more common in the late winter, spring, and early summer months, but may also develop at other times of the year. Different adenoviruses cause illnesses affecting different areas of the body. Some strains cause infection of the lining of the eyelids, breathing passages, and lungs, while others affect the bowel or bladder.
The adenoviruses are spread by person-to-person contact, including transfer through secretions that are sneezed or coughed into the air or onto hands and faces. Some adenoviruses are present in the bowels and in the stools. A person getting the virus on their hands while washing or using the bathroom can spread these viruses. The virus can be passed from one set of hands to the next and then to the mouth or nose or into the eyes. Children who are in child care, especially those from 6 months to 2 years of age, have a greater chance of catching these viruses.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of adenovirus infections are similar to those of the common cold. The affected person may develop a stuffy or runny nose as well as a sore throat (pharyngitis), eyelid lining inflammation (conjunctivitis), infection of the small breathing tubes in the lungs (bronchiolitis), pneumonia, a middle ear infection, or fever. Some children may have a harsh cough, similar to that of whooping cough. Sometimes there is bleeding into the lining that covers the eyes. This virus may cause eyes to look very frightening, but vision is not affected. Children infected with some strains of adenovirus develop inflammation of the stomach and intestinal tract, which can cause diarrhoea and abdominal cramps (gastroenteritis). This virus can also infect the bladder and cause blood in the urine and pain when urinating. Occasionally, the virus causes infection in or around the brain (meningitis or encephalitis). In patients with an organ transplant or other conditions in which the immune system is weakened, adenovirus infection can be quite severe and result in an overwhelming infection and death.
Once a person is exposed to the virus, there is an incubation period of 2 to 14 days before symptoms appear. The incubation period for gastroenteritis can range from 3 to 10 days.
What You Can Do
Make sure you or your child gets extra rest and drinks plenty of fluids. If child is feeling uncomfortable, you can consider giving paracetamol to reduce fever or to ease the pain of a sore throat, but remember that fever is one way your child’s body fights these viruses.
There is no specific treatment for adenoviruses. Your doctor will suggest supportive care that helps ease your symptoms and makes you more comfortable.