Questions & Answers
Adenovirus - The Disease
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  1. What are adenoviruses?
    Adenoviruses are medium-sized, nonenveloped icosohedral viruses containing double-stranded DNA. There are at least 52 immunologically distinct types that can cause human infections. Adenoviruses are unusually stable to chemical and physical agents and to adverse pH conditions, thus allowing for prolonged survival outside of the body.

  2. Can adenoviruses cause acute respiratory disease?
    Yes. In the United States, acute respiratory disease is often associated with adenovirus Types 4, 7, and 14. The epidemiology of adenoviruses vary by type; all are transmitted by direct contact, fecal-oral transmission, and occasionally waterborne transmission. Some types can establish persistent asymptomatic infections in tonsils, adenoids, and intestines of infected individuals, and viral shedding can occur for months or years.

  3. What are the symptoms of adenovirus infection?
    Adenoviruses cause a wide range of illnesses, depending on the virus type. Adenovirus types 4 and 7 can cause respiratory (breathing) problems, fever, sore throat, cough, eye infections, runny nose, headache, and pneumonia. The incubation period of the disease is 4 to 5 days. These symptoms can last up to 10 days. Young infants and especially patients with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to severe complications of adenovirus infection.

  4. Can adenovirus infections be prevented?
    Yes. Strict attention to good infection-control practices, including contact and droplet precautions is effective for stopping nosocomial outbreaks of adenovirus associated disease. Frequent handwashing is effective for preventing the spread of adenoviruses. Additionally, there is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved/licensed vaccine for adenovirus types 4 and 7. Adenovirus types 4 and 7 can be prevented with a single vaccine dose administered as two live, oral enteric-coated tablets (type 4 - white tablet, type 7- light peach tablet).

Rate and Spread

  1. Are respiratory infections a problem for military populations?

    Acute infectious respiratory diseases are a significant preventive medicine problem for military populations living in close quarters. Crowded conditions are often found at training centers, dormitories, tent cities, and deployment-staging areas. Other potential transmission environments include recruit training centers, classrooms, dining facilities, and areas where items, such as resuscitation mannequins and water fountains are shared.

    Over the past 10 years adenoviruses have affected about 15,000 military basic trainees annually, with 3-4 days of illness per event and 1-2 deaths occurring per year due to the virus. The United States military processes thousands of recruits each year who arrive from all regions of the country as well as some foreign countries, and from a variety of different environments. The recruits are then formed into close-quartered military units. They may arrive as hosts or with mild cases of respiratory infections endemic to their own particular region of the country; they are housed in close contact with individuals from other parts of the country who may be susceptible. New recruits may also be exposed to respiratory infections that are endemic to the recruit training center. Close contact, coupled with the unique stressors of military operations, often put military recruits at a greater risk for respiratory disease than other cohorts.

  2. What can be done to prevent transmission of respiratory infections including adenovirus infection?
    To prevent spread of disease, it is important to practice good hand hygiene and infection control. Some respiratory diseases are vaccine-preventable including adenovirus types 4 and 7.