What Is Adenovirus 14?

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There are several viruses that can cause a cold, and adenovirus is one of the most common ones. Likewise, there are many different types of the adenovirus itself. While most result in colds that are relatively mild and only last for about a week, illness stemming from one type—adenovirus 14—is far more concerning. Adenovirus 14 is unusual because it causes even young, healthy people to become seriously ill, and, in a few cases, die.

Also Known As

Adenovirus 14 has also been dubbed "the killer cold" by various media outlets.

Adenovirus 14 Symptoms

Adenovirus 14 typically causes cold-like symptoms, but can also progress to cause serious concerns such as pneumonia. The more serious outcomes occur when the virus progresses quickly and severely.

In general, adenoviruses can cause many symptoms and complications, including:

Having any of these 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.

Causes

Adenovirus 14 was first identified in the 1950s but appeared in its mutated, and more virulent form in 2005. From 2006 to 2007, adenovirus subspecies B2 serotype 14 was detected in outbreaks in New York, Oregon, Washington, and Texas and was associated with 10 deaths and 140 respiratory illnesses. It has since been detected in sporadic outbreaks in military recruits and the general public.

This "killer cold" is spread the same way that all colds are spread—by droplet transmission. This means that the virus lives in oral and nasal secretions, and is spread when those secretions are passed from one person to another. This can occur when people have close contact such as touching or shaking hands. Sneezing, coughing, and sharing drinks or utensils are common modes of droplet transmission as well.

Touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it and then touching your face without washing your hands can also lead to an infection. And although it's less common, adenoviruses can also be spread through stool (e.g., while changing a diaper) or water (e.g., in a public swimming pool).

Diagnosis

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 after evaluating your symptoms.

Your doctor will also evaluate you for other conditions such as pneumonia, upper respiratory tract infections, or conjunctivitis.

Treatment

There is currently no FDA-approved treatment plan for adenovirus. Infections are usually mild and don't require medical care unless you're experiencing complications from a severe infection (a concern for people with weakened immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer patients).

Prevention

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

  • Washing your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds
  • Using hand sanitizer when you don't have access to a sink
  • Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze (use the crook of your elbow instead of your hand)
  • Staying away from sick individuals (as must as possible)
  • Refraining from touching your nose, eyes, and mouth
  • Keeping personal use items (like your toothbrush or cup) to yourself

Adenovirus 14 is not the only strain that can cause outbreaks that may result in severe complications. The U.S. military now immunizes recruits for adenoviruses 4 and 7 to reduce these occurrences. However, there is no vaccine for adenovirus 14.

A Word From Verywell

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.

While adenoviruses have caused severe illnesses in some patients, it is usually a mild illness that does not require treatment. Even so, good hygiene habits will help minimize your chances of becoming infected with this and other viruses.

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