What You Need To Know About Adenovirus (Part 1)

What You Need To Know About Adenovirus (Part 1) By now you might have heard about the recent “adenovirus outbreak” here in Lee County (see: NBC2, News-Press). Unfortunately, many parents haven’t heard of adenovirus — but most children get it several times, especially in the first 2 years of life. This article is part 1 of a 2 part series that aims to help parents understand what, exactly, adenovirus is, how to prevent it, and how to care for a sick child that has been infected.

So What Is An “Adenovirus”?

Adenoviruses are very common viruses that can cause infections in children. There are over fifty types of adenovirus. They most commonly cause upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, sore throats, tonsillitis, ear infections, and conjunctivitis. Another common adenoviral infection is pharyngoconjunctival fever (sore throat, red eyes, and a fever). Less commonly, adenoviruses cause croup, pertussis syndrome, or bronchiolitis. In fact, they account for about 10% of acute respiratory infections in kids. Adenoviruses are also a common cause of gastroenteritis. They can also cause urinary tract infections (including hemorrhagic cystitis – a type of UTI with blood in the urine). In rare cases, adenoviruses cause pneumonia, meningitis, or encephalitis.

Anyone can get adenoviral infections from newborns to the elderly, though adenoviral infections affect babies and young children far more often than adults. As we have seen in the news here lately, childcare centers and schools sometimes have multiple cases of respiratory infections and diarrhea caused by adenovirus, called “outbreaks” or “clusters”. These outbreaks of adenovirus infection are not terribly common in the U.S. population, and outbreaks that have been reported usually involve respiratory illnesses or conjunctivitis. These outbreaks are more common in late winter, spring, and early summer but can occur throughout the year.

While adenoviral infections can occur at any time of the year, it has been noted that:
  • 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.

What Are The Symptoms of An Adenovirus Infection?

Depending on which part of the body is affected, the signs and symptoms of adenoviral infections can vary:
  • Febrile respiratory disease, an infection (with fever) of the respiratory tract, is by and large the most common result of adenoviral infection in children. The illness often appears flu-like and can include symptoms of pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx, or sore throat), rhinitis (inflammation of nasal membranes, or a congested, runny nose), cough, and swollen lymph nodes (glands). Sometimes the respiratory infection leads to acute otitis media, a painful infection of the middle ear.
  • Adenovirus often affects the lower respiratory tract as well, causing bronchiolitis, croup, or viral pneumonia, which is less common but can cause serious illness in infants. Adenovirus can also produce a dry, harsh cough that can resemble whooping cough (pertussis).
  • Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestines. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, vomiting, headache, fever, and abdominal cramps.
  • Genitourinary infections: Urinary tract infections can cause frequent urination, burning, pain, and blood in the urine. Adenoviruses are also known to cause a condition called hemorrhagic cystitis, which is characterized by blood in the urine. Hemorrhagic cystitis usually resolves on its own.
  • Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is a mild inflammation of the conjunctiva (membranes that cover the eye and inner surfaces of the eyelids). Symptoms include red eyes, discharge, tearing, and the feeling that there’s something in the eye.
  • Pharyngoconjunctival fever, often seen in small outbreaks among school-age kids, occurs when adenovirus affects both the lining of the eye and the respiratory tract. Symptoms include very red eyes and a severe sore throat, sometimes accompanied by low-grade fever, rhinitis, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis is a more severe infection that involves both the conjunctiva and cornea (the transparent front part of the eye) in both eyes. This type of adenoviral infection is extremely contagious and occurs most often in older kids and young adults, causing red eyes, photophobia (discomfort of the eyes upon exposure to light), blurry vision, tearing, and pain.
In part 2 of this series, we will look at prevention, treatment, and what to expect if your child develops an adenovirus infection.

If you think your child might have an adenovirus infection, please don’t hesitate to give MacKoul Pediatrics a call at 239-573-2001.


About author MacKoul Pediatrics

MacKoul Pediatrics is an amazing local pediatrics office in Cape Coral, FL where caring, compassionate doctors and nurses work with you to keep your children as healthy as possible. MacKoul cares for children from birth to college age, from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and beyond.

May 8, 2015