Deadly adenovirus no longer in area

ESCANABA — A cluster of adenovirus cases which led to the deaths of three people in the area last fall is no longer active, Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties (PHDM) Medical Director Dr. Teresa Frankovich said.

Usually, adenovirus causes a relatively mild respiratory illness with cough, congestion and — in some cases — diarrhea.

“Adenovirus circulates every year in the United States and is not a reportable disease in Michigan — meaning public health does not typically track cases,” Frankovich said.

Not all cases of adenovirus are this mild, however.

“Far less commonly, it may cause more substantial illness with pneumonia and neurologic problems. People with weakened immune systems, or existing respiratory or cardiac disease, are at higher risk of developing severe illness from adenovirus infections,” Frankovich said.

In August 2018, PHDM was notified by U.P. Health System — Marquette of multiple severe adenovirus cases in the area. In this cluster of cases, which primarily took place between August and October, 14 people from the counties of Delta, Menominee and Marquette required hospitalization, some of these people required intensive care and three people died of complications related to their infections.

“The strain of adenovirus involved in this instance was Adenovirus 14 and it has been known to cause more severe illness than most other strains, when it has occurred in other areas of the country,” Frankovich said. She is not aware of any previous clusters caused locally by this strain.

Frankovich said serious adenovirus cases have been on the wane locally as of late.

“Fortunately, the number of new cases began to dwindle in mid to late October. Over the past couple of months there has been little to no activity related to adenovirus reported by area hospitals,” she said. There may still be milder cases occurring locally.

While adenovirus does not appear to be causing serious problems in the area right now, Frankovich said there are still some steps people should take to lower their risk of becoming ill.

“We are in the midst of cold and flu season and it is important for people to remember that they can stay healthier and decrease (the) spread of illness in their community by staying home when they are ill, covering their cough and washing hands frequently, especially before eating and after using the restroom,” she said.

According to Frankovich, as of late January, there have already been 24 pediatric deaths caused by flu in the United States this year.

“Flu vaccination remains the single best way to prevent influenza,” she said, adding that it is not too late for people to get vaccinated.

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