What to Know
- University of Maryland freshman Olivia Paregol died November 18 of adenovirus complications.
- Health officials now say they are dealing with an outbreak of the virus, which has symptoms that can be confused with those of a cold.
- Paregol's father questioned whether mold in his daughter's dorm exacerbated her illness.
Less than a week after an 18-year-old University of Maryland freshman died from complications related to a virus, several more cases have been reported at the school.
Medical experts now say the university is dealing with an outbreak of adenovirus, which has symptoms similar to those of a cold, including a sore throat, fever or pink eye.
UMD officials said Monday that an additional three cases of adenovirus were confirmed over Thanksgiving weekend, bringing the total number of cases to nine.
This figure includes the death of Olivia Paregol, who died of adenovirus complications on Nov. 18.
The latest students to be diagnosed did not require hospitalization, University Health Center Director David McBride said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state and the county all are addressing the virus, said Prince George's County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter.
"We're working with the University of Maryland, the CDC and the state to make sure that we identify the strains, understand how it is spreading and make sure we are getting the word out," he said.
The first case of the virus was reported at UMD on November 1. That student was hospitalized. On November 5, a second student was hospitalized. On November 7, the university cleaned surface areas to try to prevent the spread of the virus. On November 19, UMD learned that six students had the virus. On November 18, Paregol died. And on November 20, the school notified the public of her death.
Outside the dorm where Paregol lived, Elkton Hall, classmates remembered her on Tuesday.
"She was just, like, the happiest, most amazing person ever. And then she got really sick," student Kate Backman said.
Adenoviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of illnesses, according to the CDC. The virus can pose serious complications to people with weakened immune systems, respiratory issues or cardiac disease.
Paregol was taking medication for Crohn's disease. Her father, Ian Paregol, said she went to the campus health center when she fell ill but was not tested for adenovirus. Her family learned on November 13 that she had adenovirus. Five days later, she died.
The late 18-year-old's father said the university failed her.
"Families send their children to the university with the expectation that, at the very least, the university is going to ensure their safety. I don't think they met that standard in Olivia's case," he said.
Family, Classmates Question Whether Mold Played Role in Paregol's Death
Ian Paregol questioned whether mold found in his daughter's dorm could have exacerbated her illness.
But McBride, the head of the campus health center, said there's no "consistent connection" between mold and the virus.
Student Matthew Landy, who lives in the same dorm, said Tuesday that he believes the mold has sickened him for the whole fall semester.
"I've been sick the whole time I've been here, coughing. It's been really hard to live in the conditions in the rooms," he said.
Students diagnosed with adenovirus live both on campus and off campus, the university said.
Another Deadly Adenovirus Outbreak, and How It's Spread
An adenovirus outbreak is what recently killed 11 "medically fragile" children at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Passaic County, New Jersey.
Adenovirus is typically spread from an infected person to others through close personal contact such touching or shaking hands; through the air by coughing and sneezing; or by touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
UMD is advising students and staff members to be conscientious about hygiene.