What Is Adenovirus 14?

The Killer Cold

adenovirus
Adenovirus illustration. PASIEKA/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Most colds are relatively mild and only last for about a week. While the symptoms are annoying, most healthy people can deal with them and still manage to go about their daily activities. There is one type of cold virus, however, that has recently been causing some very serious illnesses.

This new "killer cold," as it has been dubbed by the media, is known as adenovirus 14. It was first identified in the 1950s, but appeared in its mutated, and more virulent form, in 2005.

So far, there have been only a few pockets of outbreaks around the United States.

There are many different types of adenovirus; it is one of the most common types of virus that cause colds. What is so unusual about this type of adenovirus is that it is causing young, healthy people to become seriously ill or, in a few cases, die. So what do you need to know about this "killer cold?"

What are the Symptoms?

Adenovirus 14 typically causes cold-like symptoms, but can also progress to serious illnesses such as pneumonia. The more serious outcomes occur when the virus progresses quickly and severely. In general, adenoviruses can cause many illnesses, including:

Having any of these illnesses or symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have adenovirus 14. If your symptoms are particularly severe or seem to be progressively getting worse, you should contact your healthcare provider.

Who Should be Concerned About Adenovirus 14?

Anyone can get adenovirus 14, but those with weakened immune systems -- such as young infants, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses -- are at higher risk for complications from the virus, just as they are with any illnesses.

This "killer cold" is spread the same way that all colds are spread -- by droplet transmission.

This means that the virus lives in mouth and nasal secretions and is spread when those secretions are passed from one person to another. This can occur when people have close contact. Sneezing, coughing, and sharing drinks or utensils are common modes of droplet transmission.

How Can You Avoid Adenovirus 14?

Using good hygiene is the best way to avoid adenovirus 14 and any other cold or illness that is spread in a similar way. This includes:

What Else Should You Know?

There have been a few outbreaks of adenovirus 14 in the United States since 2005. The first was located in Oregon and two subsequent outbreaks have been located at military bases. It is not necessary to be tested for adenovirus 14 just because you have cold symptoms. If a severe illness occurs and the cause cannot be found, your healthcare provider may decide to test for the virus.

The CDC wants the public to know that although this strain of adenovirus has caused severe illnesses, it is still extremely rare and should not be a special concern. Using good hygiene habits will help minimize your chances of catching this or any other cold.

Sources:

"Key Facts and Q&A About Adenovirus 14." Respiratory and Enteric Viruses Branch 20 Nov 07. National Center for Infectious Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 15 Dec 07.

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