Adenovirus Claims the Life of a College Student
Olivia Paregol, an 18-year-old college student at the University of Maryland, recently died from complications related to adenovirus, a family of viruses that has claimed many lives in recent months. In most cases, the virus causes cold and flu symptoms like a sore throat, fever, and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but it can also lead to neurological diseases. In people with compromised immune systems, the virus can be fatal. At the time of Paregol’s death, she had been battling Crohn’s disease.
The University of Maryland said Paregol’s was the first case of adenovirus diagnosed on campus. The diagnosis came on November 1. Since that time, six cases have been reported at the school. Adenovirus Type 7, which is a severe version of the virus, was one of those identified, said University Health Center director David McBride.
Paregol “appeared to be getting sicker and sicker” in the weeks leading up to her death, her father, Ian Paregol, recalled. His daughter had been living in a dormitory, and it is believed she was exposed to the virus there after another college student had been affected. Adenovirus is easy to catch from a cough or sneeze by another person or be shaking hands and touching a contaminated surface. It can stay on surfaces long after they’ve been disinfected. The virus can also stay in one’s system long after they become asymptomatic.
Paregol’s symptoms started first as a cough and later progressed to pneumonia. Her father says that if the university had known there was an adenovirus outbreak, they also should have known that Paregol was at high risk, since immune-system-compromising medication she was taking to treat her Crohn’s was issued at the university’s health center.
University officials learned of the first case of adenovirus on campus on November 1. The following day, Paregol went to the health center complaining of difficulty breathing, but was not tested. “They don’t kind of connect that one dot on, ‘Hmm, this student is immunosuppressed, she has all the symptoms of adenovirus, we had a diagnosis of adenovirus, oh she just – we’ll just send her home,'” Ian said.
Paregol’s family is questioning whether the death of the college student was related to a mold outbreak in some of the campus’s dorms. She had been a resident of Elkton Hall, which at one point was evacuated for mold remediation. The university said it began receiving “higher than normal reports of mold” beginning on September 16, but denies there is a connection.
The CDC, the Maryland Department of Health and the Prince George’s County Health Department are launching an investigation into the outbreak at the University of Maryland. Brian Bachus, chief of the state health department’s division of outbreak investigations, said it isn’t unusual for an adenovirus outbreak to occur at a university, particularly because a college student will often underreport.
The school is also addressing the epidemic by vigorously cleaning “high-touch surfaces” and restrooms. It will also change out self-serve utensils in the cafeteria every 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, Paula M. Costigan is suing the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Jersey where an adenovirus outbreak has killed ten pediatric patients since September 26, 2018 and has sickened many others. Costigan’s child was left nearly dead, and she has claimed the rehab facility failed to follow safety protocols and didn’t inform families about the outbreak.
Costigan said her son developed a high fever and complications on October 9. He had to be hospital in critical condition. The first adenovirus case was reported on September 26, but officials did not notify the family about the outbreak until October 22. On October 21, a state inspection cited the rehab staff only for poor hand washing.
With the onslaught of recent cases, the CDC is urging frequent hand washing, covering one’s mouth while coughing and sneezing, and avoiding shared utensils.