University of Michigan: Respiratory illnesses on rise on Ann Arbor campus

FILE: Students walk across the University of Michigan campus January 17, 2003 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images) (Bill Pugliano, 2003 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan has seen an uptick in “all types of respiratory illnesses” as thousands of students prepare to head home for Thanksgiving break.

The news was shared by U-M’s Chief Health Officer Robert D. Ernst in a letter to the school community on Wednesday, who said the campus is experiencing high transmission of adenovirus.

“Findings from testing done at UHS and at Michigan Medicine indicate that the campus community is currently experiencing a detected outbreak of adenovirus,” wrote Ernst. “The University of Michigan, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Washtenaw County Health Department, continues to evaluate and respond to these cases.”

Adenovirus typically causes seasonal colds, and it rarely develops into severe illness. Very young children and immunocompromised individuals are most susceptible to developing severe symptoms. Ernst said cases on campus have been mild.

Read: Surge of RSV leads to pediatric bed shortages at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital

The most common symptoms of adenovirus include a fever, runny nose and sore throat. Individuals may also experience a cough and gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea.

Transmission occurs through contact with contaminated surfaces or droplets from the throat or nose. Symptoms can last for days or weeks and there is currently no specific treatment.

Ernst urged those who become sick to stay home and test for COVID-19 if symptoms develop. Sick individuals should look out for worsening symptoms like a stiff neck, severe headache, shortness of breath or a high fever, which could indicate more serious illness.

He also urged the campus community to use the following mitigation measures to prevent infection:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after touching public surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Routinely clean surfaces that are frequently touched with bleach-containing cleaners or wipes (adenovirus responds quickly to bleach but is resistant to other disinfectants).
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as beverage glasses, utensils or towels.
  • Consider wearing a mask when around others for enhanced personal protection. Well- fitting masks and high-filtration respirators (e.g., N-95 mask) remain effective tools to significantly reduce the likelihood of acquiring all respiratory viruses. Free, high-quality masks are available at CSTP campus locations.
  • If you have not already done so, get a seasonal flu vaccine and the updated omicron booster for COVID-19.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.