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For Maggie Fox
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that it is helping to investigate an adenovirus outbreak that killed a student at the University of Maryland and made at least five more sick.
Olivia Paregol, 18, died on November 18, according to an obituary. She was a freshman in college and died after suffering respiratory symptoms typical of the virus, her father, Ian Paregol, told local television stations and the Baltimore Sun.
At least one of those affected by the outbreak was infected with adenovirus 7, a strain that can cause sometimes fatal pneumonia, the Maryland Department of Health said in a statement sent to NBC News. It is the same strain of adenovirus that has killed 11 patients in a long-term care facility in New Jersey.
The CDC said it is analyzing other patient samples. Neither the CDC nor the Maryland health department said if it was adenovirus 7 that killed Paregol.
Adenoviruses are very common and can cause symptoms ranging from a cold to infections in the eyes and, sometimes, upset stomach. Only some of the 50 known strains cause serious diseases, but include the adenovirus strain 7.
The virus is not usually tracked by health officials, so there are no statistics on the number of people who get sick each year. , or how many kill. But strains of adenovirus 4 and 7 have been linked to deadly outbreaks in the past and can be a nuisance among new military recruits who are now routinely vaccinated. The vaccine is only approved for military recruits.
The university is closed for Thanksgiving holidays, but confirmed the outbreak and death on its website. "The staff of the Health Center has been on high alert and we have communicated with the medical centers in the area to increase awareness of this disease," said Dr. David McBride, director of the health center. "We offer our condolences during this difficult time."
Two different strains of adenovirus cause outbreaks in New Jersey, one in the long-term care center of Wanaque and another in a pediatric center in Voorhees. The New Jersey Department of Health says that 35 people, mostly sick children, were infected with the Wanaque outbreak. Eleven have died. Twelve cases are reported in Voorhees, all with adenovirus 3, a strain that is not usually associated with a serious illness.
Like many other viruses, adenoviruses spread easily by touching the air when coughing. and sneezing, and touching contaminated surfaces, says the CDC. People who are not sick can spread the virus to other people if they are infected. The virus is not easy to kill.
"Adenoviruses are relatively resistant to common disinfectants and can be detected on surfaces, such as knobs, objects and water from swimming pools and small lakes," the CDC said.
Ian Paregol said his daughter was taking immunosuppressant medications to treat Crohn's disease. That could have put her at greater risk of getting a serious illness like an infection like adenovirus. "People with weakened immune systems have a high risk of developing a serious disease caused by an adenovirus infection," says the CDC on its website.