Adenovirus killed a college student. There’s a vaccine, but she couldn’t get it.

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By Maggie Fox

Olivia Paregol was a happy, friendly 18-year-old who loved dorm life at the University of Maryland.

“She was the typical freshman girl, looking to meet people and have the college experience,” her father, Ian Paregol, said.

Olivia died in November, killed by a virus that normally causes symptoms little worse than the common cold: adenovirus 7. It’s the same strain that killed 11 children and made 36 sick in an outbreak at a nursing home in New Jersey.

Some experts believe the strain is spreading more frequently across the United States. Adenovirus 7 causes more severe symptoms — such as fever, sore throat, and diarrhea — than other strains of adenoviruses and while there is a vaccine to prevent it, it’s currently only available for military recruits.

It may be time to change that, especially given the recent deaths, several experts say.

“If that child at the University of Maryland was yours and you knew she had died of a vaccine-preventable disease, what would you do?” asked Adriana Kajon, who studies adenovirus at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, New Mexico.

Paregol knows. He and his wife are asking questions about why the University of Maryland did not do more to protect his daughter and to improve hygiene at its overcrowded dormitories.

“Just about every kid was sick in that dorm,” Paregol said. The dorm Olivia lived in, Elkton Hall, was so overcrowded, the university had converted some of the dorm lounges into living quarters.

Olivia Paregol, right, with her brother Evan, and sister Zoe.Courtesy of Ian Paregol

“They called them ‘lounge girls’,” Paregol said. “I remember her saying, ‘I am going to go up and see the lounge girls’.”

The dorm also had problems with mold, which led to many complaints and in September the university said it had cleaned some areas and allowed some students to relocate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mold doesn’t affect transmission of respiratory viruses, but Paregol said the mold problem should have been a red flag to university officials.

“There really does seem to be a pattern of indifference to the health of the students at the University of Maryland,” he said. “Having more students in the dorm than the dorm could even handle, let alone the mold … they just waited so long to react.”

Before the students left for the winter break, the university said 35 students had tested positive for adenovirus and 10 have been typed as adenovirus 7 by the CDC. “To help prevent the spread of cold, flu and other viruses on campus, Residential Facilities will do a deep cleaning of the residence halls from Jan. 7–18, including disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in students’ rooms,” the university said.