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Infectious Diseases

Infectious Disease information and resources for the MSK community, including clinicians, patients, and the general public.


Many different respiratory viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common. Rhinoviruses can also trigger asthma attacks and have been linked to sinus and ear infections.


Common Human Coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. There are four main sub-groupings of coronaviruses, known as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. There are four common human coronaviruses that cause symptoms of the common cold.

  1. 229E (alpha coronavirus)
  2. NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
  3. OC43 (beta coronavirus)
  4. HKU1 (beta coronavirus)

Novel Coronaviruses

Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new (novel) human coronavirus. Three recent examples of this are 2019-nCoV (COVID-19), SARS-CoV (SARS), and MERS-CoV (MERS).

Influenza Viruses

Influenza Viruses

There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D. Human influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease (known as flu season) almost every winter in the United States. Influenza A viruses are the only influenza viruses known to cause flu pandemics, i.e., global epidemics of flu disease.

Influenza C virus infections generally cause mild illness and are not thought to cause human epidemics. Influenza D viruses primarily affect cattle and are not known to infect or cause illness in people.

Respiratory Viruses


Adenoviruses are common viruses that typically cause mild cold- or flu-like illness. Adenoviruses can cause illness in people of all ages any time of year. A possible association between pediatric hepatitis and adenovirus infection is currently under investigation. Learn about the investigation of children with hepatitis of unknown cause.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.

Gastrointestinal Viruses


Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. People with norovirus illness can shed billions of norovirus particles. And only a few virus particles can make other people sick. People of all ages can get infected and sick with norovirus.

You can get norovirus illness many times in your life because there are many different types of noroviruses. Infection with one type of norovirus may not protect you against other types. It is possible to develop immunity to (protection against) specific types. But, it is not known exactly how long immunity lasts. This may explain why so many people of all ages get infected during norovirus outbreaks. Also, whether you are susceptible to norovirus infection is also determined in part by your genes.


Rotavirus disease is characterized by vomiting and watery diarrhea for three to eight days. Fever and abdominal pain also are common. Additional symptoms include loss of appetite and dehydration. The incubation period for rotavirus disease is approximately two days.

Children may develop rotavirus disease more than once because neither vaccine nor natural infection provide full immunity from future infections. A child’s first infection with rotavirus tends to cause the most severe symptoms.

In the United States and other countries with a temperate climate, the disease has a winter and spring seasonal pattern, with annual epidemics occurring from January through June. The highest rates of illness occur among infants and children age 5 and under. Adults can get rotavirus, though disease tends to be milder.