COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) — University of Maryland, College Park records show an 18-day delay in warning students about a deadly virus spreading on campus.
The Washington Post reviewed school records which showed the 18-day delay between the first student diagnosis and a campus alert about the virus.
Ultimately, the virus — adenovirus — sickened 44 students and killed freshman Olivia Paregol.
“There was a student who got very sick, and ended up being admitted to the hospital,” Washington Post Investigative Reporter Jenn Abelson said. “So, that information was known on Nov. 1. Olivia walked into the health center, not feeling well, on Nov. 2. No one told her. No one alerted her that this could be a potential reason why she wasn’t feeling well.”
Abelson said University records show the University of Maryland knew a student was diagnosed with adenovirus on Nov. 1, 2018, but Paregol’s parents said nobody tested their daughter for the illness.
“She got sicker and sicker, and as the University became aware of more and more cases, they remained silent,” Abelson said.
The cases did not connect until 11 days after Paregol went to the school’s health center for help. Now, with their daughter in intensive care, her parents called University health officials begging for information.
“It should not take a distraught father, in the middle of the night, whose daughter is fighting for her life, to call a University and say, ‘Hey, is there any information you can give me as to what my daughter might be fighting?’ For them to say, “Oh, by the way, we have had a couple adenovirus findings,” Olivia’s mother Meg Paregol said.
Tests showed Olivia had a dangerous strain of the disease and an already weakened immune system from Chron’s Disease. She died four days later.
The next day, campus leaders alerted students to the outbreak of adenovirus. The Washington Post report raises questions over the communication and its timing with a coinciding crisis.
Just weeks before the virus hit campus, officials were dealing with a separate emergency.
Mold inside of a dorm forced officials to move more than 500 students, including Olivia, off campus. Some students reported getting sick from living in moldy rooms.
In emails obtained by the Washington Post, the University’s health director said, “mold can cause respiratory irritation that may increase the susceptibility of any viral infection.”
But University officials stand by their decision. President Wallace Loh wrote in a letter to students and media Friday:
“The University is confident that we exceeded public health practices in the handling of adenovirus on our campus. Our approach to reporting, coordination with health officials, and communicating with our campus community exceeded CDC guidlines.”
CDC guidelines show there is no legal requirement to notify the public.