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Reovirus: Clinical Manifestation, Diseases Caused by Reovirus, its Symptoms, Treatment

ds-RNA viruses are found in human, animals, fishes, birds, insects (invertebrates) plants and fungi. In human, virus attacks mucosal membrane of respiratory and gastrointestinal system. The viruses are made up of double stranded (ds) RNA protein complex. The virus is not covered by lipid capsules. There are 87 subtypes. Some of the subtype of reoviruses are linked to symptoms of few unknown diseases. The reovirus viral infection in human is often subclinical. The subtype of Reovirus that affects gastrointestinal system is known as Rotavirus. The recent research of immunotherapy indicates reovirus can be useful to trigger the immune system to kill the cancerous cells.

Clinical Manifestation of Reovirus in Humans

Infection caused by reovirus is often subclinical and disappears within 3 to 7 days. In few cases serotype 1 and 2 of reovirus enters into mucosal epithelial cells of respiratory and gastrointestinal system resulting in inflammatory viral infection. Rarely serotype 1 and 3 of reovirus were found with diseases like meningitis and encephalitis involving central nervous system. The virus infection rarely causes life threatening conditions. The most common symptomatic viral infection involving reovirus is upper respiratory tract infection known as common cold, which is mostly observed in children age 3 to 7 years attending kindergarten and elementary school. One of the subtype of reovirus known as coltivirus causes Colorado Tick Fever. The virus is transmitted from tick bite into human and often seen in Colorado, USA.

Diseases Caused By Reovirus

Diseases Caused By Reovirus

  1. Upper Respiratory Illness Caused by Reovirus & its Symptoms

    1. Common Cold

    2. Tonsillitis

      • Fever- high fever 1001 to 103 F
      • Severe throat pain
      • Enlarged tonsils
      • Cough with throat irritation
      • Breathing difficulties because obstruction of air passage in pharynx
      • Mostly observed in children age 3 to 6 years and young adults.
    3. Bronchiolitis Obliterans

      Bronchiolitis is rarely observed unless initial symptoms are ignored. Persistent reovirus presence in upper respiratory tract eventually attacks terminal airways known as bronchioles. The viral infection of bronchioles causes inflammation of bronchiolar mucosa. The bronchiolar mucosa become edematous and swollen following inflammation and results in obstruction of airway passage.

    4. Pneumonia

      The lungs are made up of several thousand of microscopic air sacks known as alveoli. The prolonged presence of reovirus in respiratory tract eventually spreads in to alveoli and causes alveolar infection. Pneumonia is rarely caused by reovirus infection. The pneumonia is often seen in patient suffering with immunodeficiency syndrome following symptoms of common cold.

      • Symptoms of common cold are observed during initial phase
      • Fever with shaking chills
      • Chest pain associated with wheezing
      • Cough with expectoration or dry
      • Rapid and difficult breathing
      • Rapid Heart beats
  2. Gastrointestinal Illnesses Caused by Reovirus

    1. Gastroenteritis-

      Reovirus rarely may affect gastrointestinal system simultaneously causing symptoms of common cold. In few cases the subtype of rotavirus causes gastrointestinal upset when contaminated food is consumed. Such symptoms are considered as food poisoning and symptoms are observed in 24 to 48 hours.

    2. Biliary Atresia

      The condition is induced by reovirus infection in infants and child under one year of old. The viral infection of biliary duct causes inflammation of biliary duct and later scarring resulting in obstruction of bile flow. Following symptoms and signs observed.

      • Irritable and restlessness
      • Unable to gain weight
      • Jaundice
      • Dark urine
      • Yellow conjunctiva
      • Clay color stool
  3. Central Nervous System-

    Reovirus rarely causes any effects on central nervous system. Several case reports suggests reovirus was linked to following diseases. Further investigation is necessary if following symptoms are observed in children or adult following disease of common cold.

    1. Encephalitis

      • Headache
      • Ataxia
      • Confusion and drowsiness
      • Convulsion or seizures
      • Difficult to talk or hear
      • Continuous crying and irritability
    2. Meningitis

  4. Diabetes Mellitus

    Reovirus is been considered as a cause of diabetes mellitus. Frequent and repeated reovirus infection resulting in common cold often remains dormant in human pancreas and causes harmful effect on insulin producing cells resulting in diabetes mellitus.

    • Low blood sugar level in blood
    • Frequent urination
    • Excessive thirst
    • Weight loss
    • Vision changes
    • Dry skin
  5. Colorado Tick Fever

    Coltivirus is the subtype of reovirus and symptoms are observed following experiencing tick bite in a place like Colorado. The symptoms appear 3 to 6 days after bite since incubation period to spread within the human system is 3 to 6 days.

    • Fever with chills
    • Headache
    • Muscle aches
    • Light sensitivity
    • Loss of appetite
    • Vomiting and abdominal pain
    • Weakness

Treatment of Reovirus Infection

Treatment of reovirus infection depends on symptoms. Symptoms are appropriately treated for rapid recovery. Persistent infection and prolonged symptoms are treated with antiviral medications.

    • Cough Suppressant- Dry cough is treated with cough suppressants. Cough suppressant medication like dextromethorphan are sold over the counter as syrup or tablets.
    • Cough Expectorant- The cough syrup containing medication like guaifenesin helps to soften cough as well release the mucosal secretion from mucosal epithelial cells. The treatment helps to cough out mucosal secretions as sputum.
    • Anti-Fever Medication- Fever due reovirus infection is treated with tylenol or NSAIDs.
    • Pain Medications- Acute pain associated with reovirus infection is treated with tylenol or NSAIDs like motrin or naproxen.
    • Muscle Pain- Muscle and body ache responds to NSAIDs or tylenol. If body ache is associated with severe muscle spasm, then muscle relaxants can be tried.
    • Dehydration- Oral repeated fluid intake. If one cannot take oral fluid then consider intravenous fluid.
    • Persistent Vomiting- Severe vomiting often does not respond to conservative therapy. In that case anti-histaminic or anti-vomiting medications should be tried under the supervision of physician.
    • Diarrhea- Diarrhea is initially treated with over the counter medication like kaopectine or stool hardener. If diarrhea continues and get worse then one should see physician and get prescription of antidiarrheal medication like Imodin.
    • Dyspnea or Short of Breath- Treatment may involve hospital or ICU (intensive care unit) admission depending on severity of symptoms. Treatment includes nasal oxygen, intravenous fluid and anti-viral medications. Serious cases may need insertion of endotracheal tube in trachea and assisted breathing.

Also Read:


  1. The role of rotaviruses in pediatric diarrhea.
    Flores J, Nakagomi O, Nakagomi T, Glass R, Gorziglia M, Askaa J, Hoshino Y, Perez-Schael I, Kapikian AZ., Pediatr Infect Dis. 1986 Jan-Feb;5

  2. Mechanisms of reovirus bloodstream dissemination.
    Boehme KW1, Lai CM, Dermody TS., Adv Virus Res. 2013;87:1-35.

  3. Respiratory infection of mice with mammalian reoviruses causes systemic infection with age and strain dependent pneumonia and encephalitis.
    Gauvin L1, Bennett S, Liu H, Hakimi M, Schlossmacher M, Majithia J, Brown EG.,
    Virol J. 2013 Mar 1;10:67.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 22, 2022

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