Did Mold Play a Part in a Student’s Recent Virus-Related Death? And, Does a Living in a Moldy Indoor Environment Negatively Influence Outcomes for Other Illnesses?
Whenever a young person dies from injury or sickness, it is a tragedy of great magnitude. We all struggle to come to terms with how little control we have over the causes or circumstances that contributed to such an event. I know my reaction to this kind of news is often colored by fear and worry for the safety and health of my own friends and family members. Tragedy, life’s greatest equalizer, makes me recognize, that my body, while resilient and recovered is also still very fragile and can succumb to outside stressors if they become too much for it to handle once again. So, when I heard of 18-year-old Olivia Paregol’s death, my fears and feelings stemming from our mold ordeal surrounded me. But, instead of being paralyzed by negativity, I have decided to try to contribute what I now know about mold and its influence on the body and its susceptibility to viruses and other illnesses to help others digest, dive deeper, and learn something from Olivia’s story.
For those of you who might not have read or heard about Olivia, she was a freshman co-ed at the University of Maryland who died last week due to complications from Adenovirus. After her death, it was revealed that at least 8 other students on the U of M campus were also diagnosed with the virus—leading the university to label it a viral “outbreak” at the time of this post. Symptoms of the virus include: sore throat, fever, and pink eye. It often presents as the common cold and most young people make a full and rather quick recovery.
Since Olivia’s death, cultures of the virus that were done on the other infected students have been sent off to various labs for analysis, and one strain that is present is rare and more virulent than most. The virus, which has more than 50 strains, can cause illnesses ranging from common colds to pneumonia. Fever, diarrhea, intestinal infections and neurological diseases are also possible, but usually rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Adenoviruses are spread by touching a contaminated person or surface, or through the air by coughing or sneezing. They are known to persist on unclean surfaces and medical instruments for long periods of time, and they may not be eliminated by common disinfectants, but rarely cause severe illness in healthy people. However, people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of severe illness, and they may remain contagious with the virus for long after symptoms have subsided. There have even been studies done on adenoviruses showing that they can go into dormant phases where all symptoms disappear, but because of exposure (toxins, other viruses or bacteria), or another immune system stimulating event, they reignite in the host’s body and reoccur with greater virulence and symptom onset.