Health officials say uptick in deadly viruses actually due to medical advancements

Lynne Adkins
December 04, 2018 - 4:00 am
Adenovirus

CDC/ Dr. G. William Gary, Jr.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A New Jersey Senate Committee is investigating an outbreak of adenovirus at a Camden County pediatric clinic after a 13th child was reported sick, but the question remains: Why are we hearing about so many serious infections lately? 

Reports of the virus have spread over the past couple months, mainly due to the weather. When the cold weather hits, the viruses start circulating because we spend more time together inside, according to Dr. Ebbing Lautenbach, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Penn Medicine. 

"As there are changes in temperature, as there are droughts or increased rainfall, (that) can change what happens with vectors and hosts," he explained. "For example, insect vectors tend to be more active at higher temperatures."

And if the diseases carrying insects are more active, they're spreading more disease. 

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Lautenbach admitted, though, that we're hearing about more of these illnesses for several reasons, one of which, fortunately, is due to better diagnostic tools to label each virus and better tracking of the infections.

We are also seeing more disease because physicians have improved medical treatments, so sicker patients live longer, but with weakened immune systems, so they can catch more viruses.

Better tracking of viruses and medical improvements also add to the number of infections being discussed.

"We're better at diagnosing these infections, and so with improvements in diagnostic tests we can identify organisms now that we couldn't routinely identify before," he added.