A freshman at the University of Maryland died of complications from adenovirus on Nov. 18, raising concerns across the College Park campus as eight more students have contracted the illness.
Olivia Paregol had a cough early in the school semester, and over the next few months her health continued to decline. The 18-year-old eventually developed pneumonia, and was in and out of the emergency room in the days before her death.
The University of Maryland Health Center confirmed her death in a statement.
“I am sad to share that a University of Maryland student recently passed away from adenovirus associated illness. We offer our condolences during this difficult time,” David McBride, director of the school’s health center, said. “While we are normally prohibited from sharing medical information publicly, we have been authorized by a family member to share this news and urge others to take seriously this strain of a common virus.”
The University of Maryland confirmed to PEOPLE on Monday that eight other students have reported falling ill due to adenovirus, up from the five cases reported after Paregol’s death. Testing conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that one of the first five cases is the more severe Adenovirus 7 strain, but they do not yet know the strains of the three new cases.
Adenovirus are common viruses that can cause sore throats, pneumonia, pink eye and more. They’re typically easy to treat and fairly mild, but the health risk is greater among immunocompromised people, as is the case with the continued outbreak at a New Jersey childcare facility that has left 11 kids dead. Paregol was taking medication to treat Crohn’s disease that weakened her immune system, making her more susceptible to adenovirus.
Paregol’s father, Ian, said that his daughter also had mold in her dorm room, which he believes made the situation more severe.
“It didn’t help the illness. I think that’s a really fair statement,” he told CBS News. “We don’t know that there’s causation, yet, but it didn’t help things.”
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The University of Maryland has been dealing with an outbreak of mold on campus all semester, and had to move students out of dorms into temporary housing as they worked to solve the issue, including Olivia. But the school tells PEOPLE that the CDC says that there is no connection between mold and the cases of adenovirus. They also said that the nine people who were infected are unconnected to each other, and are a mix of students living in on- and off-campus housing.
Whether or not the mold was related, Ian said he just wants to know if University of Maryland could have done more to help Olivia when she was in and out of the health center repeatedly. He told the Baltimore Sun that they filled her prescription for the Crohn’s medication and therefore should have known that she was at a higher risk of infection.
When Olivia was admitted to the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Nov. 12, Ian called the health center to inquire about the mold and to see if it was related to her pneumonia. After that call, the university eventually told Olivia’s doctors about the other adenovirus cases and she was then tested and confirmed to have adenovirus.
“If they would have known a week earlier, I think there would have been a different result,” Ian told the Baltimore Sun. “This should never have happened.”
Now though, Ian is urging other University of Maryland students to get tested.
“If there’s other students that now maybe get tested and then don’t get as sick as Olivia, then that’s at least one more child that didn’t have a horrible outcome,” he told The Diamondback, the school’s newspaper. “This is the most painful thing a parent can endure.”
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