Mutated cold virus blamed for death

SEATTLE — A Pierce County woman who also had AIDS died earlier this year from a mutated version of a common cold virus that also sickened three other women at the same residential-care facility, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

Adenoviruses usually cause respiratory infections that are not considered lethal. But a new variant has caused at least 140 illnesses in New York, Oregon, Washington and Texas, according to a report issued Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Washington health officials began testing for the disease at the request of the federal government because more than 30 cases had been discovered in Oregon, said Dr. Marcia Goldoft, the acting state epidemiologist for communicable diseases.

The four Washington patients all had initial symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath between April 22 and May 8. Three were hospitalized. The patient with AIDS died after 8 days in the hospital. The four were the first cases of identified adenovirus in Washington since 2004, the CDC said.

Prevention of adenovirus is similar to health department recommendations for flu, cold and pneumonia, and most people get better with standard care, Goldoft said. There are no good antiviral medications for adenoviruses. Patients usually are treated with aspirin, liquids and bed rest.

Goldoft called adenoviruses the “disease of the week” and said people should not be terribly worried about getting the viruses, first identified in 1955.

The four people who contracted the virus in the Pierce County facility ranged in age from 40 to 62 and all had risk factors. They were all smokers, all but the AIDS patient had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the CDC reported.

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