Adenovirus – What Nurses and Student Nurses Need to Know

Adenovirus has been in the news over the past several months, shedding light on a common virus that usually produces minor symptoms. With severe illnesses and even deaths reported lately, it’s important to have a broad understanding of this virus so you can recognize symptoms, provide the best care to patients, and be able to answer questions.

There are more than 50 types of adenoviruses that can cause illness in people at any age; however, those who are immunocompromised or have respiratory or cardiac disease are at greater risk of developing severe illness. It is important to note that people with weakened immune systems who have ongoing infections, but are asymptomatic, can continue to shed the virus.  Also, epidemics can occur, without seasonality, including in communities and crowded settings.

Signs and symptoms

Patients with adenovirus typically present with cold symptoms. However, other symptoms may occur, including:

  • Sore throat
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Fever
  • Cystitis
  • Neurologic disease (CDC, 2018).


A variety of ways can be utilized to identify the adenovirus, including antigen detection, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), virus isolation, and serology (CDC, 2018). However, a diagnosis can prove challenging, as even if a person has adenovirus infection, it might not be causing their specific illness. Clusters of adenovirus infections should be reported to the state or local health department.


Adenoviruses are usually spread from an infected person to others through personal contact, droplet particles, or transmission via contaminated surfaces. It is also possible for these viruses to be transmitted through water contamination, for example swimming pools and lakes.


How can you help prevent transmission of adenovirus infections?

  • Follow infection control protocol policies of your institution.
  • Maintain contact and droplet precautions for infected patients.
  • Keep staff informed of adenovirus-infected patients.
  • Stay up-to-date on current outbreaks and recommendations from the CDC.
    • The adenovirus vaccine is recommended for military personnel age 17-50 years who are entering basic training or may be at high risk for adenovirus infection (CDC, 2014).


No specific treatment for adenovirus infection exists. Provide supportive management of symptoms and possible complications. Cidofovir may be ordered for severe cases for immunocompromised patients.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Adenovirus for Healthcare Professionals. Retrieved from  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Adenovirus VIS. Retrieved from

Flombenberg, P. & Kojaoghlanian, T. (2018). Pathogenesis, epidemiology, and clinical manifestations of adenovirus infection. UpToDate. Retrieved from
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