Loh defends UMD’s response to student illnesses after adenovirus report

Freshman Olivia Paregol (center) with her parents, Ian Paregol (left) and Meg Paregol (right). The University of Maryland student died Nov. 18 after contracting adenovirus (Photo courtesy of Ian Paregol).

By Arya Hodjat and Leah Brennan
Senior staff writers

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh defended the University Health Center in a campuswide email Thursday morning, after the Washington Post reported the center did not notify the family of freshman Olivia Paregol about an adenovirus outbreak until after she was hospitalized.

“We are confident that our actions last fall were appropriate and timely. And, we continue to make improvements to our residence halls to ensure the well-being of current and future students,” Loh wrote.

Paregol, a criminology and criminal justice major, died Nov. 18 from complications of the virus. Health center director David McBride was first notified of the virus’ presence on this university’s campus Nov. 1, according to the Post.

[Read more: “A light wherever she went”: Olivia Paregol remembered for her fun-loving nature]

But Paregol’s family wasn’t aware the virus was spreading on campus until Nov. 13, when her father, Ian Paregol, called McBride while his daughter’s condition worsened in the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s intensive care unit, the Post reported.

Until that point, doctors had treated her with antibiotics, as if she had bacterial pneumonia — but when Ian received word from McBride that she could have adenovirus, doctors had to change course, the Post reported. They began treating her with an antiviral drug, but her condition didn’t improve. She died five days later.

McBride did not notify the campus’ infectious disease management committee when he first found out about the virus on campus because it was “not currently a reportable condition . . . we were more focused on what we knew at that time,” he told the Post. When medical personnel discover the virus, they’re not bound by law to inform health officials or the public, according to the Post.

[Read more: “She loved learning so much”: Memorial scholarship honors Olivia Paregol’s curiosity]

“The actions we took are in line with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance on adenovirus outbreaks and were consistent with the University’s strong commitment to the health and safety of our students,” McBride told the Post.

Paregol lived in Elkton Hall, one of the dorms hit hardest by a campuswide mold outbreak during the fall semester.

While mold does not cause adenovirus, it can “cause irritation of the respiratory tract and make individuals more susceptible to viral infections in general,” according to the health center’s website. The university has denied a link between the two.

In the months following Paregol’s death, the university underwent campuswide cleaning over winter break to combat adenovirus. About 600 rooms opted out of the cleanings of the roughly 4,600 rooms in on-campus dorms and apartments.

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