The University of Maryland in College Park is contending with fears about whether a student’s death from adenovirus was related to mold found in campus dorm rooms. Five more students also have illnesses tied to the virus, but it isn’t clear if mold is the culprit, according to published reports.
Freshman Olivia Paregol, 18, died Sunday after contracting the virus, CBS News reported.
Adenoviruses are common and can cause symptoms such as a cold or eye infections, according to published reports. A vaccine is reportedly available for adenovirus, but it is not available to the public.
What is going on?
Freshman Jessica Thompson told the news outlet she noticed mold on her shoes and on clothing in her dorm room in August. Thompson said she believe the fungus made her and her roommate ill.
"You can't sleep at night because the pillow is right next to mold and you're up all night coughing," Thompson told the news outlet. "We got to go home on the weekends and we would be totally fine at home, and we would come back and would be sniffling and coughing and then have headaches."
She said she repeatedly complained to university leaders about the problem. Eventually, she and about 500 other students were moved to temporary housing as the university worked to clean the dorm.
"They had put in a dehumidifier, and the heat had finally turned on and the mold seemed to go away, but it was a good two-and-a-half months," Thompson said.
Ian Paregol, Olivia's father, said his daughter's dorm room also had mold, Olivia already had a weakened immune system from Crohn's disease, he told the news outlet. Several weeks into the fall semester, she complained of respiratory problems and went to campus health center for treatment, he said.
"It didn't help the illness. I think that's a really fair statement. We don't know that there's causation, yet, but it didn't help things," he said.
According to the report, the University of Maryland learned of the first case of adenovirus on Nov. 1. The number has increased to six cases, including Olivia Paregol’s.
"I want the other kids to make sure they don't get sick. I mean…apparently there were two kids sick when we came forward, right?..."I would've liked to have had that information. And now there's three more kids sick," Ian Paregol said.
Dr. David McBride, head of the university's campus health center, told CBS News the school has stepped up its cleaning efforts and is “on high alert here and we're working to be very diligent to follow up on cases when students are sick to make sure that they don't worsen.”
The university is working with state and local health officials to investigate the virus outbreak, the report states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold can cause respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and a stuffy nose.
The andenovirus also hit at a New Jersey health center last month, and 11 children died, according to the report.