A freshman college student at University of Maryland has died of adenovirus, the virus that has killed 11 immunocompromised children at one New Jersey care facility.
Olivia Paregol, 18, suffered from Crohn’s disease and was diagnosed with pneumonia on November 9.
She developed the respiratory infection as a complication of a particularly severe strain of adenovirus, a common illness from which most people recover on their own, but that can prove deadly for those with weakened immune systems.
After nearly a week fighting for her life in an intensive care unit, Olivia died on Sunday.
Though she’d been seriously ill, Olivia was not tested for adenovirus until another student was diagnosed with the virus, and her father, Ian, told WJLA that the school did not announce cases to families or the student body.
As her family and the University of Maryland grieve the loss of the young woman, they warn that five others have been diagnosed with adenovirus, and that illnesses should be taken seriously.
Olivia Paregol, 18, contracted adenovirus while attending University of Maryland and undergoing treatment for Crohn’s disease. The college freshman died of the virus on Sunday
Adenovirus comes in more than 100 different strains.
Like most viruses, some types can infect humans, while others cannot, some will cause nothing more than a common cold, while others can be pernicious.
The worst strains of a respiratory adenovirus infection can masquerade as the flu and its symptoms – sore throat runny nose, fatigue, fever, chest congestion and cough – may be every it as miserable.
But even then, the illness is rarely life-threatening. It typically only endangers very young children and the elderly.
A compromised immune system, however, can change everything.
Olivia was thriving in her first year at University of Maryland, but all the while she was fighting Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to make misguided attacks on its own healthy bacteria and tissues. The result is chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
The condition cannot be cured, but may be managed with steroids or drugs to suppress the immune system.
It is unclear if Olivia was receiving either of these treatments, though ABC reported that she was being treated for Crohn’s.
The University of Maryland (pictured) announced Tuesday that five other adenovirus cases have been diagnosed. Olivia’s father alleges the school knew Olivia’s diagnosis before she did
Courtesy of WJLA
She apparently contracted adenovirus while being treated, and her father told WJLA that his daughter had had continuous problems with mold in her dorm room.
‘She definitely appeared to be getting sicker and sicker,’ Ian told WJLA.
In its Tuesday announcement of an adenovirus death to the University of Maryland community, the school said it was first aware of an ‘isolated case’ of the viral infection, though it isn’t clear if that referred to Olivia.
At least one of the infections was discovered to be from strain 7 of the virus, one of the most savage and dangerous forms.
University of Maryland said it had been ‘closely monitoring’ the school for infections and coordinating with area health systems and officials.
But Ian did not feel adequately in the loop about the outbreak or his daughter’s condition.
‘I was told there were two students with the virus when I called to figure out what my daughter had, which means they knew it before my daughter,’ he said.
‘It was the worst nightmare that a family or certainly a parent can have to endure.’