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An adenovirus belongs to an entire family of viruses that are collectively known as “adenoviruses.” This family of viruses can infect both humans and animals, most commonly resulting in illnesses affecting the respiratory tract. Here’s what you need to know about this family of viruses, and how to protect yourself against infection.

Adenovirus Symptoms

Adenoviruses cause infections by entering your body through your airways or your intestinal tract. In either case, the virus multiplies rapidly and begins to cause symptoms in as little as two days, or as long as two weeks, following exposure. Symptoms typically include:

  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Runny nose

Young children are most at risk, along with the elderly. Compromised immunity, such as occurs with the AIDS virus or during chemotherapy treatments, can increase the likelihood of infection, as well as the severity of the infection and symptoms. Anyone can be affected by adenovirus, but the infection is usually most severe in those with compromised immune systems. However, even healthy people can find themselves infected with adenovirus. Your relative health and personal habits will generally dictate how long the virus sticks around; for healthy people, the illness runs its course fairly quickly, possibly in as little as 48 to 72 hours.

Duration of Illness

Adenovirus is a fairly short-lived virus, with most minor infections resolving around three to five days after symptoms become evident. However, some infections may last as long as a week, and the effects of a serious adenovirus infection may linger for ten days to two weeks, or longer. Adenoviruses flourish in close-quarter communities like prison, school buildings, and communal-living situations like hostels.

Adenovirus Complications and Subsequent Illnesses

Some people who become infected by adenovirus may come down with associated illnesses, like bronchitis and croup. Other manifestations of adenovirus may include skin rashes, bladder infections, diarrhea, and pink eye (conjunctivitis). In addition, adenovirus infections may be complicated by serious problems like pneumonia or infections in the lungs. Other associated illnesses may include ear or brain infections, and even meningitis.

Avoiding Infection by Adenoviruses

Adenoviruses spread in a couple of very effective ways. The first is that the virus can hang around for a long time on inanimate objects. Door knobs, counters, and other commonly-touched surfaces can harbor adenovirus much longer than you might think. If you touch these surfaces and then eat, touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, or handle other objects, you can easily spread the virus and become infected.

Another avenue of infection is common to many types of virus: airborne droplets that are expelled in every cough and sneeze of an infected person. These droplets can land on surfaces, including dishes and utensils, countertops, computer screens and keyboards, and even your own skin. By touching these surfaces or your face, you can pick up the virus and become infected quite easily. You can even become infected just by breathing in just after someone has coughed or sneezed, or by those droplets coming into contact with any of your mucous membranes, or eating food prepared by someone who’s infected.

Staying Healthy

Avoiding people who are obviously ill and washing your hands regularly (and properly) can help you avoid becoming infected. Keeping the area around you clean and using disinfecting wipes on surfaces can also help you stay clear of adenovirus infection. Be aware of touching your face and try to reduce that behavior as much as possible. The symptoms of adenoviruses can be somewhat mitigated by medication, but there’s no treatment. Like most viruses, it must simply run its course.