Six months after University of Maryland freshman Olivia Paregol died from adenovirus during a campus outbreak her family has indicated they may take legal action. Olivia’s dad, Ian Paregol, filed a notice of claim under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, which is a required step before someone can sue a state agency or employee for an injury. Paregol says the university should have shared information about the outbreak of the virus sooner and believes Olivia would have survived if doctors knew to treat her for adenovirus right away.
Olivia was already extremely sick by mid-November when doctors learned of the adenovirus outbreak and decided a specific course of treatment for the virus.
The Washington Post reported last week that UMD found out about the first student who had contracted adenovirus on November 1 and waited 18 days to communicate about the outbreak to the campus community. Olivia died on November 18 while receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. UMD officials say they followed CDC guidelines. There are no state or federal reporting requirements for adenovirus.
“I don’t know how they could have done everything right since my daughter died. The bottom line here is it looks to the public, not just to us but the public that the University of Maryland put institutional public relations ahead of student public health,” said Paregol. UMD has refused interview requests about how they handled the adenovirus situation. They will only refer reporters to a letter from President Wallace Loh in response to the Post’s reporting.
The letter says in part, “Last fall, our approach to reporting adenovirus, coordinating with public health officials, and communicating with our campus community exceeded CDC guidelines.” Paregol has since started a Twitter account to help keep UMD officials accountable.