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Adenovirus outbreak: Spike in cases among children in West Bengal

West Bengal has seen a significant spike in respiratory infections among children since January. Of the 500 samples tested by the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), those testing positive for adenovirus were the highest – 32%. The other two common infections detected were parainfluenza virus – 13% and rhinovirus – 12%.

Two pediatric patients succumbed to the infection on Sunday – a six-month-old and a 2.5-year-old. Although the exact cause of the fatalities has not been confirmed, there is no denying the massive in-surge of children suffering from flu-like symptoms in public and private hospitals. 

Reportedly, the state health department has requested chief medical officers in charge of different hospitals to check the preparedness of the healthcare sector in tackling the disease. 

Adenovirus infections are common and can affect people at any time of the year. The condition is more common in children. The symptoms are usually mild-to-severe; those among children are:

  • Fever
  • Cough and cold
  • Sore throat
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis) 

Immunocompromised patients and those with comorbidities are the most susceptible. Some patients may also present with nausea, vomiting, watery stools, and abdominal pain. The disease may progress to pneumonia and acute bronchitis if complications persist. 

Further, the infection is contagious and primarily spreads through air droplets, water contamination, and fecal contact. Close contact with an infected person/child must be avoided, such as handshaking. School-going children must be taught hand-washing and to avoid touching their mouths, nose, and eyes, especially when outdoors.

Surface contamination by adenovirus is also likely, and the virus is resistant to common disinfectants. The infection can also spread by touching a surface that has been in contact with an infected person.

No specific treatment has been defined for this viral infection. In most cases, diagnosis is based on the patient’s history and clinical presentation. Usually, the symptoms are mild and supportive treatments can ameliorate the symptoms. The disease is more common in children and some patients may require hospitalization if complications precipitate.

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