Fort Worth, Texas,
14:26 PM

What Is Adenovirus?

Doc Smitty explains common childhood infection that has killed 7 children in New Jersey

Tragically, 7 children have died as a result of a rapidly spreading, severe infection in a New Jersey rehabilitation center. The infections have been caused by a virus called adenovirus which is a common childhood infection. Three children tested positive for adenovirus at Cook Children's last week. On average, the hospital has one to three cases a week. 

I tell you that not to freak you out, but to let you know how common it is. Most cases are typically mild. When we see sever disease, it's often in immunocompromised patients and those cases are uncommon.

What's important to remember is the children who died in New Jersey were all medically fragile and had weakened immune systems.

I know this kind of news can be scary, so I thought I would take some time to answer a few questions you may have.

What is adenovirus?

For most children, adenovirus causes mild symptoms. Sore throat, pink eye, fever and common cold symptoms are the most frequent. The symptoms are typically similar to but much less severe than influenza and can also be mistaken for strep throat. Like most viruses, the initial symptoms go away on their own in a few days but upper respiratory symptoms such as cough and congestion can last up to two weeks.

There are multiple different types of adenovirus, some cause more severe disease than others. They are all spread by close personal contact and by droplets spread by coughing and sneezing. In addition, adenovirus is pretty resilient and can live on surfaces. It can also continue to be spread by people with weakened immune systems, even after the symptoms have resolved.

Should you be worried?

Because adenovirus is usually a mild illness, most parents don't have to worry about the virus. The situation in New Jersey is a tragic combination of factors that led to this terrible outcome. Multiple children who are medically fragile living in close quarters. In addition the type of adenovirus which affected the children is known to be one that causes more serious disease.

So, what if my child is medically fragile?

If your child lives or will spend time in a group rehabilitation home investigate their cleaning practices. There is little evidence to suggest that this rehabilitation center has made significant mistakes that caused the outbreak, but you can never be too careful.

Otherwise, keep you child away from illness as much as possible. If they are sick with upper respiratory symptoms, monitor them closely for sign of difficulty breathing and seek help quickly

For the rest of us, it's important to remember to keep our kids home when they are sick so that we do not put other children at risk.


Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.


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