University Health Services urges illness prevention in light of adenovirus cases

November 05, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Health Services (UHS) is encouraging students to follow a series of illness prevention techniques to protect against the common cold, flu, adenoviruses and other respiratory illnesses after an uptick in confirmed adenovirus cases on the University Park campus.

Adenoviruses are common viruses that cause a range of illnesses. Symptoms may include sore throat, fever, pink eye (conjunctivitis), pneumonia and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. People with weakened immune systems or existing respiratory or cardiac disease are at higher risk of developing a severe illness. Adenoviruses are usually spread from an infected person to others through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; the air from coughing or sneezing; and touching an object or surface with the viruses, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

“University Park is seeing an increase in adenovirus cases,” said Shelley Haffner, infectious disease manager and campus liaison for UHS. “It is not uncommon to see adenoviruses circulating at this time of year, and most people recover without complications. People who are immunocompromised or have chronic health conditions have a greater risk of developing complications from these viruses. Much like the cold and flu viruses that also circulate during colder weather, simple strategies such as good hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, not engaging in activities that spread saliva, and frequent cleaning of surfaces with a disinfectant can help prevent illness from these pathogens.”

Haffner said that because symptoms of adenovirus illness are similar to other viral illnesses, it is often confused with influenza. Although the flu vaccine won’t protect against adenoviruses, it is a key prevention tool for the flu and is recommended annually for everyone over the age of 6 months.

There are several different adenovirus subtypes that can cause illness. While there is currently no adenovirus vaccine available to the general public, you can protect yourself and others from many illnesses by following these preventive measures:

  • Wash your hands regularly, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as eating or drinking utensils.
  • Minimize close contact with persons who have symptoms of respiratory illnesses, such as a cough or sneeze.
  • Maintain a clean environment. Use disinfectants that are effective against a wide range of pathogens to clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • Get vaccinated against the flu. Some respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, can be prevented with a vaccine.
Protect yourself from germs! Wash your hands
IMAGE: Chelsea West

If you have any symptoms previously stated, schedule an appointment with UHS by visiting myUHS or call the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about adenoviruses:

What is adenovirus? What are the symptoms?

Adenoviruses are common viruses that cause a range of illness. They can cause cold or flu-like symptoms, fever, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and pink eye.

How can I protect myself from getting an adenovirus?

An adenovirus infection is passed through saliva and respiratory secretions. Students are urged not to share food or drinks, and not to engage in activities where drinks are shared or where the virus can be passed through saliva exposure. In addition, frequent hand-washing and respiratory etiquette are encouraged to help prevent spread of the disease.

What should I do if I contract adenovirus? What is the treatment?

While there is no treatment for adenoviruses, University Health Services is advising that anyone who develops symptoms get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter pain medication to ease symptoms. Students also are urged to stay home when they are sick and avoid activities where food or drinks are shared or where the virus can be passed through saliva exposure. Contact a health care provider immediately if symptoms worsen instead of improving, and if you develop shortness of breath, pain with breathing, or have a chronic illness that could increase the risk of more severe illness and complications. The UHS Advice Nurse line is available 24/7 by calling 814-863-4463.

For additional information, review the following resources:

Last Updated November 05, 2019