Adenovirus Infections Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What is an Adenovirus infection?

Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that typically cause respiratory or intestinal illnesses. They are common and highly contagious. Most adenovirus infections are mild.

Types of Adenovirus infections

In addition to the common cold, bronchitis and infections in the intestinal tract, an adenovirus can include:

  • Conjunctivitis
    • eye infection also known as pink eye
  • Croup
    • leads to swelling in the airways and problems breathing
    • may cause your child to make high-pitched sound when breathing in
    • most commonly seen in children 3 months old to 5 years, with the peak around 2 years old
    • boys more affected than girls
    • more often in the fall and winter
    • lasts usually three to seven days
  • Bronchiolitis
    • infection of the lower respiratory tract that usually affects infants
    • occurs when the smaller airways of lung swell, making it hard to breath
    • usually occurs in the winter and spring
    • affects infants 2 to 6 months old
    • boys more affected than girls
  • Pneumonia
    • inflammation of the lungs
    • can occur year round, but is usually seen in the winter and spring.
    • boys are affected more often than girls.
    • ten to 15 percent of children with a respiratory infection have pneumonia

What causes an Adenovirus infection?

Adenoviruses are contagious, which means you child can pass them on to other children. The type of infection determines how it spreads.

  • Respiratory infections
    • coming in contact with infectious material from another individual or object
    • secretions from the respiratory tract may contain the virus
    • can survive for many hours on objects such as doorknobs, hard surfaces and toys
    • symptoms may develop 2 to 14 days after exposure
  • Intestinal tract infections
    • usually occurs by fecal-oral contact
    • the result of poor hand-washing or from consuming contaminated food or water
    • symptoms may develop 3 to 10 days after exposure
      usually occurs in children younger than 4 years old and may last one to two weeks

Are adenoviruses common?

This group of infections is very common. In fact, most children have had at least one form of the infection by the age of 10. Some of the viruses pop up in certain times of year and in certain age groups.

  • Respiratory infections are most common in the late winter, spring and early summer.
  • Intestinal tract infections can occur anytime throughout the year.
  • Digestive tract infections are more common in children under age 4.

What are the symptoms of an Adenovirus infection?

Most adenovirus infections are mild with few symptoms. While each child may experience symptoms differently, the most common include:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Intestinal tract infections
    • abrupt onset of watery diarrhea
    • fever
    • abdominal tenderness
    • swelling of the abdomen

Are there complications of an adenovirus?

While not common, there are some complications that can be caused by an adenovirus. They include:

  • Chronic lung disease
    • very rare
    • may develop if a child develops pneumonia from adenovirus
    • this strain of the virus has a 10 percent mortality rate
  • Severe infections
    • children with weakened immune systems are at risk
  • Intussusception
    • when one part of the intestine slides over another section, like a telescope, causing an intestinal blockage)
    • most often occurs in babies
    • is a medical emergency
    • symptoms: bloody stool, vomiting, abdominal swelling, knees flexed to chest, loud cries from pain, weakness and lethargy
  • Chronic infection of the tonsils and adenoids
    • lymph-like gland that is located in the back of the nose and throat
    • when your child retains the adenovirus for a long time without major symptoms

Can I prevent my child from catching an Adenovirus infection?

The best way to avoid getting an adenovirus is by frequently washing your hands and your child's hands. If your child is in the hospital, health care workers will wear special apparel, such as gowns and gloves, when they enter your child's room to avoid spreading any infections.

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