Prominent Maryland lawmakers are concerned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s adenovirus outbreak protocol didn’t do enough to protect University of Maryland student Olivia Paregol, who died in November after contracting the disease.
“We are concerned that the guidelines ... leave immunocompromised people like her at risk of serious illness or death,” U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen wrote in a letter to CDC director Robert Redfield.
In their letter, the lawmakers requested a briefing from CDC officials. They asked how long after an adenovirus outbreak is suspected education efforts ought to begin, and whether there are guidelines specifically for immmunocompromised individuals, particularly those living on college campuses.
“Last year’s outbreak of adenovirus on the University of Maryland’s campus had tragic consequences, and we are committed to doing everything we can as elected officials to prevent similar tragedies in the future,” Hoyer said.
Adenovirus is not a nationally notifiable disease, meaning doctors aren’t required to test for it or report cases to the CDC or health departments.
The virus is a cause of the common cold, according to the CDC website, but it can be much more serious, especially for individuals like Paregol, who lived with a weakened immune systems due to Crohn’s disease.
Paregol was infected with Adenovirus 7, a strain that has been linked to serious illness and death in other cases.
Cardin, whose granddaughter attends the University of Maryland, was particularly affected by the Paregol family’s loss, according to Tim Zink, the senator’s spokesman.
“It's not hard for him to put himself in their place,” Zink said.
A Washington Post investigation found that the university waited 18 days to alert the public that the virus was present on campus. Ultimately, it infected dozens of students, sending several to area hospitals.
University of Maryland Health Center Director David McBride has said officials didn’t want to “stir up unnecessary angst” on the campus with an alert.
Meanwhile, Paregol was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, where doctors tried numerous antibiotics in an attempt to treat her illness as her health rapidly declined.
On Nov. 13, five days before her death, Paregol’s father phoned McBride, who informed him that several university students had been hospitalized as a result of adenovirus, according to the Post.
By the time Paregol tested positive for Adenovirus 7 and doctors began to administer the proper antiviral drugs, it was too late, the Post reported.
Gov. Larry Hogan requested a University System of Maryland Board of Regents investigation into the school’s handling of the outbreak, and board chairwoman Linda Gooden pledged to do that.
Paregol’s family has also expressed concern that her immune system was weakened by a mold outbreak on the university’s campus. Paregol’s dorm building, Elkton Hall, was at the center of the crisis. Its residents were temporarily relocated to hotel rooms during the fall semester while remediation efforts took place.
Investigators brought on by the university ultimately found the building’s air conditioning units ill-equipped to handle humidity and eliminate it from the air, leaving the students’ rooms particularly vulnerable to mold development.
Last month, the Paregol family filed a notice of claim under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, an initial step toward a lawsuit against the university. Ian Paregol told The Diamondback, the university’s student newspaper, that he was awaiting a response from the school before determining whether to move forward with the claim.