Escalating Adenovirus Threat: Empowering Parents to Shield Children from the Post-Pandemic Surge


Recent studies in Asia have found that Adenovirus infections are escalating among children. This often manifests as flu symptoms along with conjunctivitis and high fever. A study found an outbreak in India, while doctors in Singapore stated that they have seen more such cases in the past year.

This uptick referred to as the ‘post-pandemic effect’, aligns with a surge in other respiratory infections.

What is Adenovirus

Adenovirus is a type of virus that can infect the lining of the eyes, airways and lungs, intestines, urinary tract, and nervous system. It’s a common virus that can cause a variety of illnesses. They range from mild conditions like cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and pink eye (conjunctivitis). However, they can extend to more severe illnesses like stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis) inflammation, bladder inflammation or infection (cystitis), or neurological disease.

Adenoviruses are usually spread from an infected person to others through close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands, through the air by coughing and sneezing, or by touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.

It can affect anyone at any age but is more common in children. Most people have had at least one type of adenovirus infection by the time they’re adults.

Early Detection: Deciphering Symptoms

Generally, general practitioners typically do not conduct specific tests for the virus due to costs. However, one sign of adenovirus is flu associated with conjunctivitis or pink eye. Other symptoms include breathlessness, sore throat, diarrhoea, vomiting, and nausea.

Dr Penny Lo, a senior family physician at Joy Family Clinic, reports that she has seen a rise in such cases over the past month. “For the past three to four weeks, we’ve seen two or three more cases per week compared to usual,” she said.

Notable Severity in Children

The severity of adenovirus cases amongst children has also seen a marked increase. This is noted by Dr Jenny Tang, a senior consultant paediatrician at the Singapore Baby and Child Clinic (SBCC). “We are seeing adenoviral infections with more prolonged and high fevers associated with respiratory tract symptoms like pharyngitis, acute laryngotracheitis, and bronchitis,” she added.

The Post-Pandemic Effect

Doctors attribute the ‘post-pandemic effect’ to the surge in adenovirus cases and other respiratory infections. They’ve noticed that as safe management measures relax, case start to rise. The measure include people removing masks, schools resuming normal operations, social activities pick up, and global travel restarts.

“Children in 2020 and 2021 had less exposure to common respiratory viruses compared to children of similar age in previous years due to enhanced hygiene practices and safe distancing measures during the pandemic,” stated Dr Karen Donceras Nadua with the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).

Mitigating Risk: Proactive Measures

Despite the rise, doctors reassure that most adenovirus infections in children are mild and do not require specific treatment. However, managing symptoms, ensuring rest, and maintaining fluid intake is crucial.

Preventive measures, such as practising good hand hygiene, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and discouraging the sharing of personal items can help mitigate the risk. The Health Ministry also recommends that those feeling unwell do the following. They should stay home, wear a mask when venturing out, and limit social interaction.

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