Adenovirus outbreak: 19 children dead, thousands hospitalized in India

The government of the Indian state of West Bengal claims 'no epidemic'.
Sejal Sharma
Over 12,000 adenovirus cases recorded since January
Over 12,000 adenovirus cases recorded since January


An outbreak of adenovirus has claimed the lives of 19 children in the Indian state of West Bengal, causing a wave of worry among the public. Several children remain hospitalized owing to the highly contagious nature of the virus. 

The numbers of deaths are likely to be much higher than official statistics, claims The Association of Health Service Doctors, the Guardian reported.

hadThe report also said that over 12,000 adenovirus cases have been recorded in West Bengal alone since January; over 3,000 children likely have been admitted to hospitals with severe flu-like symptoms.

Commenting on the capacity of hospitals where pediatric wards are entire, pediatrician Apurba Ghosh said, “The magnitude and severity of the epidemic are unprecedented.”

The state claims no evidence of a viral epidemic.

Of the 19 children who died, 13 had co-morbidities, and six had no prior health conditions, said Mamata Banerjee, the state's chief minister.

Claiming that they are fully prepared to tackle the wrath of the adenovirus, the state government said that there are over 2,500 sick natal care unit beds, 654 pediatric ICU beds, 120 neonatal care unit beds and an additional 75 pediatric ICU beds at the Dr. BC Roy Postgraduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences.

Speaking to Guardian, Dr. Prabhas Prasun Giri, who runs the pediatric intensive care unit at the Institute of Child Health in Kolkata, said the state was unprepared. “As we live in the post-Covid era, we should be prepared for any such virus outbreak. This year, it’s an adenovirus. Next year, it may be RSV [respiratory syncytial virus]. Another year, it may be flu.”

The state government has also constituted a task force to tackle the issue. The panel recommends primary screenings of young children, door-to-door visits for early detection, and an elaborate campaign to increase awareness as measures to curb the spread of the adenovirus.

CDC says adenoviruses are a group of viruses that can cause infections in people of all ages, any time of the year. The symptoms of these viruses are typically associated with mild cold or flu-like illness. People with weak immune systems or existing respiratory or cardiac diseases are at a much higher risk of developing severe conditions from an adenovirus infection.

They typically spread from person to person, owing to their high contagiousness, and most commonly cause respiratory illness, but can also cause gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, and cystitis. More than 50 types of immunologically distinct adenoviruses can cause infections in humans.

Recently, similar adenovirus outbreaks have been observed in countries like the UK and Netherlands, as per World Health Organisation.

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