Adenoviruses can cause a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptoms in adults include:

  • Upper respiratory symptoms, i.e. colds and flu-like illness
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, e.g. diarrhea
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and typically last a few days to several weeks. Several subtypes can cause more serious illnesses, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk. 


Adenovirus is usually spread from person to person through mucus or saliva via:

  • Airborne droplets, when people cough or sneeze
  • From touching a contaminated surface (like doorknobs, countertops, or toys) then touching eyes, mouth, or nose
  • From sharing saliva, e.g. sharing cups and eating utensils or kissing


The vast majority of cases are mild and improve within seven days. There is no specific treatment for adenovirus infections, but supportive care can help with symptom management. Supportive care includes drinking plenty of fluids and if recommended by your provider, taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen for throat pain and/or control of fever. However, some people, especially those with weakened immune systems, may develop complications including pneumonia that would require medical care.

If you are sick

  • Stay home to recover and protect others.
  • Wear a mask when around others.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are at high risk for getting very sick from adenovirus. This includes people with weakened immune systems.
  • Practice prevention activities (below).
  • If you have flu-like symptoms, especially if have a weakened immune system, please call UHS at 734-764-8320, day or night. Currently enrolled U-M students have few costs for most services at UHS, including nurse advice by phone.


There is currently no adenovirus vaccine available to the public. Prevention is the best approach. You can protect yourself and others from adenovirus and other respiratory illnesses by following these simple steps: 

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 15+ seconds
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your upper sleeve, not your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid sharing saliva, e.g. sharing cups and eating utensils or kissing
  • Routinely clean surfaces that are frequently touched with bleach-containing cleaners or wipes (adenovirus responds quickly to bleach but is resistant to other disinfectants)
  • Get vaccinated against the flu
  • Sleep to build your immunity

For more on prevention, see Take Care of Yourself and Your Fellow Wolverines.

More information