- CDC/Wikimedia Commons
- A student at the University of Maryland died of “adenovirus associated illness” this month.
- The university has also confirmed eight additional cases among students.
- Adenovirus is a common virus that causes a range of sickness, but most cases are mild.
- Proper hand washing can help stop adenovirus from spreading.
A University of Maryland student died this month because of “adenovirus-associated illness,” according to a statement released by the school on November 20. That student was later identified by her family as 18-year-old Olivia Paregol, a freshman who lived in the school’s dorms, CNN reported on November 21.
Since then, the school has confirmed an additional eight cases of adenovirus-associated illness, a university spokesperson confirmed to INSIDER on Tuesday.
Reports of Paregol’s death came amid an ongoing adenovirus outbreak affecting medically fragile children at a healthcare facility in New Jersey. State health officials have confirmed 11 deaths due to adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, INSIDER previously reported.
But it’s important to know that most cases of adenovirus don’t lead to serious or life-threatening complications. Here’s what to know about adenovirus – and what you can do to curb its spread.
Adenoviruses can cause a range of symptoms
Adenoviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of illness, including cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The illnesses caused by adenoviruses can range from mild all the way to severe. Those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk for more severe sickness.
“Please remember that Adenoviruses … are normally found in significant numbers of people at this time of year,” Dr. David McBride, director of the University of Maryland health center, said in a letter to the campus published online on Monday.
“Not every individual with an Adenovirus infection will follow a complicated course. Those with chronic medical problems like asthma, diabetes or illnesses that lower their immune system or those who take medicine that lowers their immune system, are more susceptible to a complicated Adenovirus course,” the letter added. “For these individuals, it is vitally important not to ignore flu-like symptoms … and to visit a physician within 48 hours of developing symptoms.”
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Olivia Paregol was taking a medication for Crohn’s disease that weakened her immune system, her father, Ian Paregol, told the Baltimore Sun. The children affected by the New Jersey adenovirus outbreak also have “severely compromised” immune systems, according to state health officials.
In both locations, tests found evidence of a particular strain of the virus – adenovirus 7 – that’s known to cause more severe illness.
That strain is behind the entire outbreak at the Wanaque Center in New Jersey, according to the state health department. It was also detected in one of the University of Maryland cases of adenovirus, a statement from the school said.
There is no specific treatment for adenovirus, according to the CDC, and since most cases are mild, infected people may only need care to address their symptoms while they recover.
Good hand washing can help stop the spread
Adenoviruses are most commonly spread by close personal contact like shaking hands; coughing or sneezing; and touching a surface that has adenoviruses on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, according to the CDC.
Some reports have raised questions about whether or not a mold outbreak in some University of Maryland dorms has any connection to adenoviruses in students. But in his November 26 letter, McBride said there does not seem to be a link between the two.
“While it is true that mold can cause irritation of the respiratory tract and make individuals more susceptible to viral infections in general, the cases of Adenovirus-associated illness on campus have been seen both in students living on and off campus and among students in residence halls affected by mold and residence halls not affected,” he wrote. “As such, it appears that there is no consistent connection between mold exposure and the incidents of Adenovirus infection affecting UMD students.”
There is a vaccine to protect against adenovirus strains four and seven, but it’s currently only available for members of the US military. In the past, these two strains have caused severe outbreaks of illness among military recruits.
You can protect yourself against adenoviruses (and other infections) buy not touching your eyes, mouth, or nose with unwashed hands; avoiding contact with sick people; and washing your hands often with soap and water, according to the CDC.
If you get sick, you can help protect others by staying home when possible, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing, avoiding sharing cups and utensils with others, and washing your hands. Just make sure that your hand washing technique is correct for the best protection.
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