Wow, Maybe I'm Not That Weak After All – Adenovirus 14

Last modified on December 19th, 2007

I stumbled upon this article about killer viruses this morning, and it pretty much echos exactly everything that happened to me. I had a nap a few months ago, only to wake up with severe fever and chills. I thought I was battling the flu, and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better. Six days later I was in the ICU at St. Paul’s with a 104 degree F fever, and my left lung had partially collapsed due to pneumonia.

A high school varsity athlete, a sturdy guy with a health history blissfully free of blips, 18-year-old Joseph Spencer had little reason to think anything was seriously wrong when he got sick last April.

Doctors say Joseph Spencer could have died from adenovirus, a virus that usually just causes a cold.

The vomiting, chills, fever — “It must be the flu,” he thought.

Within hours, Spencer’s fever was 104 degrees. Within days, he was in the intensive care unit at Providence Portland Medical Center in Oregon with full-blown pneumonia. Spencer’s doctor was afraid this sturdy teenage boy was going to die.

“His lungs had filled up with water, it was hard to get oxygen into him,” explains Dr. David Gilbert, an infectious disease expert and Spencer’s physician at Providence. “Things got so bad, I thought we were at risk of losing him.”

But as perplexing as what would make a hardy young man so sick — so quickly — was his diagnosis: adenovirus, the virus that usually causes nothing worse than a nasty cold.

“In the past, we considered adenovirus a 98-pound weakling,” says Dr. Dean Erdman, leader of the respiratory diagnostic program at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. “But adenovirus is causing severe disease and, in some cases, death in normal, healthy people.”

At least 1,035 people in Oregon and a handful of other states have been infected by adenovirus so far this year. One of the largest outbreaks was at an Air Force base in Texas. Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta explain the killer cold virus »

But by far the deadliest outbreak is in Oregon, where seven patients have died.

Basically exactly what happened to me. Pretty scary.

The bug causing the serious disease is called “adenovirus 14,” one of the 51-odd strains of adenovirus that typically cause anything from colds to conjunctivitis and gastroenteritis. While adenovirus isn’t a new bug on the block — it was first identified in 1955 — researchers believe it has mutated into a more virulent form, first identified in 2005.

Of course, that was just the start of my adventure, and have been on antibiotics for nearly two months now, mainly to undo the damage caused by the other antibiotics I had in the hospital that they used to battle this.

Also check out this article that also talks about a recent outbreak in the Pacific Northwest:

A potentially deadly form of community-acquired pneumonia linked to adenovirus type 14 has emerged in the Pacific northwest, according to a report presented here. Action Points
Explain to interested patients that a severe form of community-acquired pneumonia has been associated with a previously uncommon form of viral infection.

Note that most cases reported thus far have been in Oregon, but that does not exclude the possibility that the virus is infecting people in other parts of the country.

Point out that the findings were reported at a medical conference and as a published abstract and should be considered preliminary until they have appeared in a peer-reviewed journal.
First encountered in 2005 in Oregon, the viral pneumonia frequently leads to hospitalization and has a 20% fatality rate, Paul Lewis, M.D., of the Oregon State Public Health Department, said at the Infectious Diseases Society of America meeting.

“We recommend obtaining a viral culture in pneumonia patients who lack a specific etiology, especially those with severe disease,” said Dr. Lewis. “If adenovirus 14 is detected, anticipate a stormy course. We encourage an infectious disease consultation to discuss the risks and benefits of any specific therapy that might be contemplated.”

Not sure if that’s what I had, but considering I went from totally healthy to ICU with pneumonia in six days, it sounds pretty similar.

2 responses to “Wow, Maybe I'm Not That Weak After All – Adenovirus 14”

  1. Doralita says:

    Sure sounds like what you ended up with… How lucky are you, that it didn’t get any worse? Were you not drinking at your party? I didn’t even notice, I was having such a good time. 🙂

  2. Duane Storey says:

    Nope, sober.

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