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Department of Health investigating contagious virus reported at multiple Wisconsin college campuses

Doctor holding stethoscope
Posted at 11:43 AM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 13:48:34-05

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is looking into a string of contagious respiratory illnesses reported across various college campuses.

The virus is called adenovirus infection.

“Adenovirus infection is easily spread, which is why we tend to see it in places where large groups gather, like college dormitories and classrooms,” said State Health Officer Jeanne Ayers. “While symptoms vary, the virus can be especially hard on people with weakened immune systems or who have lung or heart problems.”

DHS said that it is commonly spread through places where large groups of people interact on a consistent basis, like a college campus or dormitory. Serious illness is rare, but it can lead to pneumonia or death. Symptoms vary depending on which part of the body the virus is affecting. The most common include: respiratory illness, diarrhea, pink eye, and more rarely, inflammation of the bladder.

Adenovirus is spread in multiple ways including:

  • Breathing in adenovirus from the air after someone with the infection has sneezed or coughed.
  • Touching or shaking hands with someone with the virus, then touching your hands to your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Touching surfaces like a door knob, counter top, or phone with the virus on it, then touching your hands to mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Having contact with poop.
  • Having contact with water that has the virus in it, such as in a swimming pool.

Antibiotics do not work, the DHS said. If you think you have these symptoms it recommends you see a doctor, stay away from work or school, and practice good hygiene to prevent spreading the virus. Even if you don't have the virus anymore, DHS said the virus can still be spread.