COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) — The University of Maryland College Park is taking new precautions after the death of a student there from an adenovirus-related Illness that can initially feel like a common cold.
“We’re aware of six confirmed tests,” UMD Health Director Dr. David McBride said. “We’re on high alert here at the health center for students who come in with symptoms of possible adenovirus infection. We’re looking to be very diligent to follow up on cases.”
McBride’s comments come one day after Ian Paragol, the father of Olivia Paregol, spoke to WJZ about his daughter’s death.
Paragol was a freshman from Howard County who sought help at the school’s health center several times for a worsening cough.
She went home sick in late October and died at Johns Hopkins Hospital from adenovirus-related complications. Her father said she was “goofing around, her regular self” two weeks ago “but now she’s gone.”
“The only reason that even in this horrendous time in my family’s life that I even entertained having conversations on the same day that I had to pick a plot for my daughter and a casket is really because I don’t want other families and other parents to have to suffer through this,” Paragol told WJZ. “How does one do when they lose a child? It’s not good. It’s the worst pain that any parent can ever contemplate.”
Olivia Paragol had a compromised immune system because of Crohn’s disease, making her especially vulnerable to adenoviruses.
“We are grieving along with Olivia‘s family. Our thoughts go out to her and them in this incredibly difficult time. I can only imagine what they’re experiencing,“ Dr. McBride said.
Adenoviruses are a family of viruses that account for about 5 to 10 percent of fevers in young children. A person can become infected with adenovirus at any age and it causes a range of illnesses, from mild to severe.
They are generally associated with the common cold, according to the CDC. Like the common cold, there are different strains which cause different illnesses. The strain currently going around UMD’s campus was identified as Adenovirus-7
Most people who get sick from adenovirus recover after a few days, but people with weakened immune systems, or existing respiratory or cardiac disease, are at higher risk of developing severe complications from an infection.
Adenoviruses can cause sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye.
At least one person at the University of Maryland has tested positive for the dangerous strain Adenovirus 7.
Paragol said he was thankful that Dr. McBride listened to his concerns. “He has extended his condolences. He has been responsive.”
But he feels the school could have notified families sooner about the campus outbreak.
“He actually did make the call over to the Hopkins’ ICU to try and solve the mystery of what was Olivia suffering from. The problem I have is that information would’ve been much more helpful two weeks ago,” Paragol said.
McBride also wonders whether mold at his daughter’s dormitory, Elkton Hall, contributed to a worsening of her illness. It was so severe, students had to leave twice while workers removed it.
The school claims there is “no consistent connection” between mold and the adenovirus that has been seen in students living both on and off campus.
“The university came in and cleaned up the room, wiped down the room to try to rid the room of the mold… We don’t know that there’s causation yet, but it didn’t help things,” Paragol said.
Dr. McBride acknowledged “parents are scared about the situation, and that’s perfectly reasonable.”
But he said he didn’t want to “stir up unnecessary angst.”
He noted adenovirus-related deaths among healthy people with compromised immune systems are rare.
The school said in a statement it has been working with state and county health officials and disinfecting various facilities, including “the Health Center, Residential Facilities, Facilities Management, Department of Transportation Services, Athletics, RecWell and The Stamp are increasing cleaning of high-touch surfaces and restrooms. Dining
Adenovirus has been blamed recently on the deaths of 11 children at a rehabilitation and nursing facility in New Jersey. More than 30 children there have fallen ill.
“I’m trying to do the right thing by making sure people know that they need to get their kids checked out. They could have something that’s very serious going on that will affect them like a runaway train,” Paragol said.
The principal at Glenelg High School told WJZ Olivia’s death has hit the community hard.
“I was deeply saddened to learn that Olivia Paregol, a recent graduate of Glenelg High School passed away last weekend,” said Principal David Burton. “I know that the thoughts and prayers of the entire Glenelg staff and community go out to the Paregol Family during this difficult time. Olivia will always be remembered warmly as a Glenelg Gladiator.”
UMD released a statement that it is working with health department officials to investigate the cause of the Adenovirus outbreak:
“The Maryland Department of Health is working with the University of Maryland and the Prince George’s County Health Department on an investigation into an Adenovirus outbreak. The Department was made aware of the outbreak on Monday, Nov. 12. Six cases have been identified and the investigation is ongoing.”
Read the University of Maryland College Park’s letter to the community here.
The university is also answering frequently asked questions here.