University of Maryland Adenovirus Outbreak Has Sickened Dozens of Students, Killed At Least One

An Adenovirus outbreak at the University of Maryland has killed at least one student, sickened dozens others, and raised questions about the conditions of the facilities. 

Investigators believe the University of Maryland adenovirus outbreak began sometime in November 2018, and has continued to cause new reports of illness.

At least 35 University of Maryland students have fallen ill from the virus, including eight who had to be hospitalized and one, Olivia Paregol, who died from the illness. Her parents now indicate that doctors at the University’s health center failed to diagnose adenovirus in Paregol, and that she may have contracted it due to the abundance of mold in the residence halls.

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University officials have denied that the mold issue is connected to the illnesses, and say they are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stop the spread of the outbreak. CDC officials have also said there’s no evidence the outbreak is linked to a mold problem at the university.

However, a number of students have reported that the mold problem began to be noticeable at the beginning of the fall semester, in September. Some media sources report that University officials say they have received 20 emails complaining about the mold. The illnesses began about a month later, with the first adenovirus case reported on November 1.

A day later, Paregol went to the clinic complaining of breathing problems. They did not diagnose her as having adenovirus, and she later died of complications linked to the infection. Her parents believe she was more susceptible to the ailment because she suffered from Crohn’s Disease.

Adenovirus is a respiratory viral infection that usually causes mild or serious illness, such as common cold, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye, fever, inflammation of the stomach, bladder and intestines and neurological problems.

According to the CDC, adenovirus can thrive on unclean surfaces and especially medical instruments that are not properly disinfected.

A similar outbreak was recently linked to the deaths of 11 children at a New Jersey long-term care facility since late September 2018. That outbreak sickened nearly two dozen children at the Wanaque Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation.

Both Wanaque and the University of Maryland outbreaks were linked to adenovirus type 7, which is known to cause respiratory problems. However, no connection has been seen between the two outbreaks to date.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal originally warned that children who are medically fragile and have weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. However, the cleanliness and hygiene practices of the nursing care facility have been called into question, and Elnahal also indicated it was cited in both 2016 and 2017 for hand-washing deficiencies, improper syringe storage, failure to disinfect surfaces and syringes properly and violations for the unsanitary storage of oxygen tank tubing.

Earlier this month, New Jersey lawmakers held a hearing on the outbreak, asking why it took so long for the facility to notify the New Jersey health department about the issue. No officials from the facility, which faces at least one wrongful death lawsuit over the outbreak, chose to attend the hearing.

One former employee said the facility put on a show when state inspectors came, making the facility appear cleaner than it actually was, even using code phrases over the intercom to alert other staff members that inspectors were coming.

The outbreak appeared to end after November 17, when staff isolated all of the affected patients from other patients at the facility.

Efforts Underway To Halt Adenovirus Outbreak at UMD

The University of Maryland doesn’t have the ability to isolate infected students, however, in a Director’s Letter to Campus issued on Wednesday, students were urged to take precautions as they traveled home for break to prevent spreading the illness into the community.

While symptoms of adenovirus may take about five to eight days to appear, an individual with the virus can remain contagious for weeks or months to follow.

Officials stated one of the complications of adenovirus is how easily the virus can spread. Adenovirus can be spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing, or by someone touching their mouth, nose or eyes after touching surfaces or people with the virus, making winter time when common colds are present difficult to maintain.

CDC officials and state and local health departments are working to track cases and inform their community on how serious to take this matter. Officials are also consulting on how to perform thorough deep cleaning s of common area, dorms, and lecture halls to prevent any further spread.

The source of the virus is still unknown at this time, however officials and the University of Maryland campus staff are working to add cleaning protocols to help mitigate future outbreaks.


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