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No ‘consistent connection’ between mold problem and adenovirus infections, U-Md. says

Elkton Hall, pictured during a student move-in, was the site of severe mold concerns this semester. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
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The University of Maryland sought this week to assuage concerns that adenovirus infections at the school might be tied to mold exposure, writing that it appeared there was “no consistent connection” between the two health concerns. A U-Md. student died Sunday of an adenovirus-associated illness.

The university’s health center on Monday posted online a set of frequently asked questions about adenovirus. Earlier this semester, U-Md. dealt with mold in a campus dormitory — a problem that forced students to temporarily relocate to hotels. One of the questions posted online addressed concerns of a possible connection between mold and the virus.

“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 not,” the website said. “As such, it appears that there is no consistent connection between mold exposure and the incidents of adenovirus infection affecting UMD students.”

Similarly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no link exists between mold and adenovirus. That virus usually spreads from one infected person to another, the CDC said. That can happen through touching or shaking hands, or coughing and sneezing. It also spreads when people touch objects or surfaces on which the virus has landed, and proceed to touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.

The university on Tuesday said a student had died of an adenovirus-associated illness. The student, identified as 18-year-old Olivia Paregol, had lived in Elkton Hall, a dorm on the College Park campus where mold was discovered this year. Paregol, a freshman at the university, was from Howard County, Md.

Maryland learned on Nov. 1 that a student was dealing with adenovirus, David McBride, director of the University Health Center, said in a statement this week. University officials worked with the state Department of Health and Prince George’s County Health Department to monitor for cases since that discovery.

“The health center staff has been on high-alert and we have reached out to medical facilities in the area to heighten awareness of this illness,” McBride’s statement said.

Since the first case emerged, McBride wrote, five more cases of students with “confirmed adenovirus-associated illness” have been reported. And one specimen, sent to federal officials for testing, showed an adenovirus strain that can lead to more serious health problems.

Adenovirus-related illnesses are usually treated with rest, fluids and medicine to reduce a fever, according to the statement.

“However, vigilance is extremely important for those with chronic medical problems like asthma, diabetes or illnesses that lower your immune system or if you take medicine that lowers your immune system,” McBride said in the statement.

Concerns about mold have lingered this year on the College Park campus, where mold was reported throughout Elkton Hall, home to more than 500 students. The problem, which occurred earlier in the semester, worsened because of “significant rain and high humidity in our area,” according to a university statement at the time.

To deal with the mold concerns, Maryland officials hired contractors, cleaned and replaced furniture and installed “commercial-grade dehumidifiers” in hallways. Students were temporarily relocated, a decision the university said it made “out of an abundance of caution."

A university spokeswoman on Wednesday said the Elkton cleanup was completed in mid-October.