Clinical Description

Adenoviruses are medium-sized (90-100 nm), non-enveloped icosohedral viruses with double-stranded DNA. There are over 50 types that are immunologically distinct that can cause infections in humans. Adenoviruses are relatively resistant to chemical and physical agents and to adverse pH conditions and can live for a long time outside the body.

Adenoviruses most commonly cause respiratory illness. The symptoms can range from the common cold to pneumonia, croup, and bronchitis. Depending on the type, adenoviruses can cause other illnesses such as gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, cystitis, and less commonly, neurological disease.

Infants and people with weakened immune systems are at high risk for severe complications of adenovirus infection. Also, adenoviruses commonly cause acute respiratory illness in military recruits.

Some people infected with adenoviruses can have ongoing infections in their tonsils, adenoids, and intestines that do not cause symptoms. They can shed the virus for months or years.



Adenovirus infections can be identified using antigen detection, polymerase chain reaction assay, virus isolation, and serology. Adenovirus typing is usually done by hemagglutination-inhibition and/or neutralization with type-specific antisera or by molecular methods.

Even if a person has adenovirus, it does not necessarily mean that this virus it is causing the particular illness that the person has. A person can shed the virus for months or years and not have symptoms.



Adenoviruses are usually spread from an infected person to others through

  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • The air by coughing and sneezing
  • Touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

Some adenoviruses can spread through an infected person’s stool. Adenovirus can also spread through the water, but this is less common.


Prevention and Control

Currently, there is no adenovirus vaccine available for the general public.  A vaccine against adenovirus types 4 and 7 was given to U.S. military recruits from 1971 to 1999. The manufacturer stopped producing the vaccine in 1999. A new live, oral vaccine against adenovirus types 4 and 7 was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March 2011 for U.S. military personnel 17 through 50 years old. The vaccine is recommended by the U.S. Department of Defense for military recruits entering basic training in order to prevent acute respiratory disease. For more information about the vaccine, see Adenovirus Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) Adobe PDF file [59 KB, 2 pages].

To prevent nosocomial outbreaks of adenovirus infections, health care providers should strictly follow infection control practices, including contact and droplet precautions. Health care providers should follow the guidelines for preventing health care associated pneumonia for suspected cases of adenoviral pneumonia.

The public can take several preventive precautions to stop the spread of adenovirus, including:

  • Washing hands often with soap and water
  • Covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Not touching eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home when sick

Frequent hand washing is especially important in childcare settings.

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Common Disease Taxonomy: