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Outbreak of adenovirus on college campuses in state

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is investigating multiple cases of adenovirus infection on college campuses around the state. Adenovirus infections most commonly cause respiratory illness and while serious illness is rare, in some cases, it can lead to pneumonia or death.

“Adenovirus infection is easily spread, which is why we tend to see it in places where large groups gather, like college dormitories and classrooms,” said state health officer Jeanne Ayers. “While symptoms vary, the virus can be especially hard on people with weakened immune systems, or who have lung or heart problems.”

There are a number of ways someone can get adenovirus, including the following:

• Breathing in adenovirus from the air after someone with the infection has sneezed or coughed.

• Touching or shaking hands with someone with the virus, then touching hands to the mouth, nose or eyes.

• Touching surfaces like a door knob, counter top or phone with the virus on it, then touching hands to the mouth, nose or eyes.

• Having contact with human waste.

• Having contact with water that has the virus in it, such as in a swimming pool.

Symptoms of adenovirus infection depend on which type of the virus that was encountered and the part of the body it is affecting. Symptoms include respiratory illness (these can range from cold and flu-like symptoms, to bronchitis and pneumonia), diarrhea and pink eye. In rare cases, inflammation of the bladder or severe neurological disease has been known.

Antibiotics do not work on the virus. People with symptoms should see a doctor, stay home from work and school, and practice good health hygiene to avoid spreading adenovirus to others. People who have had the virus, but no longer have symptoms, could still spread it, so it’s important to be vigilant about washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes.

The DHS is working with local health departments, the CDC, and college and university health services directors, to provide prevention information and track the outbreaks. Information about the outbreaks can be found on the DHS outbreaks and investigations webpage.