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On the Outbreaks of Adenovirus

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

By Michelle Jung, Communications Editor

Graphic by Senching Hsia, Graphics Editor

On November 18, 18-year-old student Olivia Paregol at the University of Maryland died from adenovirus, sparking concern across the campus. Previously, the University struggled to contain the spread of adenovirus, as five students were confirmed on November 1st to have been infected. David McBride, director of the university’s health center, stated that Maryland is taking quick measures to respond by thoroughly cleaning all “high-touch surfaces” and urging staff and students to take preventive medical measures.

Despite these preventative measures, the number of cases at the University of Maryland increased to 22 by December 1, with four of those cases reported to be Human Adenovirus Type 7 (HAdV7).

The virus concerning the University of Maryland is adenovirus type 7. Compared to other strains of adenovirus, adenovirus type 7 can cause more severe illnesses like pneumonia, and is also associated with acute respiratory disease syndrome. Furthermore, Human Adenovirus type 7 outbreaks are highly likely to occur in close living conditions, meaning that students living in communal spaces like dormitories need to be especially cautious.

The University of Maryland is not the only population suffering from an adenovirus outbreak. The New Jersey Department of Health reported on October 23 that, out of 18 infected patients at Wanaque Center, six did not survive. Later, it was reported that 11 children had died from adenovirus and that the total number of cases at this healthcare facility had increased to 35. Since then, the New Jersey Department of Health has reported that a child dies from adenovirus almost every week. Within about one to two months, adenovirus has spread rampantly, as more cases are being reported by both the University of Michigan and the New Jersey Department of Health.

In the past, only a handful of people knew what adenovirus was; recently, however, its outbreaks in Maryland and New Jersey have prompted increased awareness and self-education.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security (Life Sciences), stated, “Adenoviruses are prolific viruses that can cause a variety of illnesses, including upper respiratory infections such as pneumonia, gastrointestinal illness, conjunctivitis, and even urinary tract infections.”

Madeline Holcombe of CNN stated:

Adenoviruses are often spread by touching a contaminated person or surface, or through the air by coughing or sneezing. They are known to persist on unclean surfaces and medical instruments for long periods of time, and they may not be eliminated by common disinfectants, but they rarely cause severe illness in healthy people. However, people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of severe disease, and they may remain contagious long after they recover, according to the CDC.

If you experience any of these symptoms (as outlined by the Center for Disease Control), please be sure to get a checkup:

• Common cold

• A sore throat

• Bronchitis (when a person has shortness in breath, which causes coughing)

• Pneumonia

• Diarrhea

• Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

• Fever

• Bladder inflammation or infection

• Inflammation of stomach and intestines

In addition, since there is no vaccine for adenovirus, please remember these self-preventative measures:

• Wash your hands with soap after coming back from school, work, or just going outside

• Try to avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or mouth if you have not washed your hands

• Cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough.


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