Molecular model of Adenovirus, a DNA-virus which causes respiratory and other infections and is associated with obesity, 3D illustration

With high indoor-traffic in classrooms, libraries and especially dorms, the spread of infectious disease is often an inevitability among college students. A recent outbreak of Adenovirus, however, has Wisconsin health officials urging students to take elevated levels of caution and handwashing, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Adenovirus, which causes cold and flu-like symptoms such as pneumonia and bronchitis in addition to conjunctivitis and diarrhea in other cases, has been confirmed at three University of Wisconsin campuses: La Crosse, Oshkosh and Madison. Rare complications of adenovirus include neurological diseases and bladder inflammation, with those suffering from pre-existing heart and immune system disorders at an elevated risk, says Jeanne Ayers, a state health office with Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services.

The total number of confirmed cases is hard to determine due to instances of unreported infections from those mistaking Adenovirus for the common cold, says Jennifer Miller, a spokesperson for the Department of Health Services. Miller says  the winter months aren’t a factor in the cases, as infection rates stay consistent throughout the year. 

To minimize the risk of spreading the outbreaks further, Miller urges students and parents to remain home if they’re sick and wash their hands consistently. 

“The message is really for college students, especially and this time of the year when there’s a lot going on and they’re burning the candle on both ends, that they take the time to take care of themselves. 

Busy college students often sacrifice sleep and necessary hygiene throughout the week as day-to-day responsibilities take priority. Finals week can magnify these habits further as minimal sleep can turn to all-nighters. Well aware of the trend, Utica College in New York simulated a disease outbreak last month to increase student awareness for vaccinations and personal wellness. Read more on the exercise here.