Researchers are also screening several thousand people to determine if anyone else has antibodies to the virus, which would indicate prior exposure and that the virus has already been in circulation in the general human population.
Another question is whether it's contagious among people, Chiu said. "There is possibly some evidence it's transmissible, but we just don't know yet," Chiu noted. "If this virus has the potential for human-to-human transmission, it would have the potential of developing into an outbreak."
While adenoviruses usually stick to one species, other viruses do "jump" between species frequently, Chiu said, and a virus that makes one species very ill may be relatively harmless in another.
SARS coronavirus, for example, colonizes bats and ferrets without causing disease, while in humans the illness triggers severe pneumonia, Chiu said.
Influenza also jumps between species. Pigs may show no signs of having H1N1 ("Swine flu"), but humans can get very sick from it.
Researchers are also working to determine if the new adenovirus is a "recombinant," or combined virus, which includes bits of genetic information from monkey and human adenoviruses.
"When viruses jump they can cause much more severe disease or less severe disease," Chiu said. "These findings might be an argument to do more broad surveillance of animals. If we can better understand what kind of viruses circulate in animals, it might help predict what viruses might jump over and when."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on adenoviruses.
SOURCES: Charles Chiu, M.D., Ph.
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