Author: jgerman (page 1 of 3)

Flu Season is here!

After a refreshing break for the holidays, CATCH is back and ready to see participants!  The 2018-2019 flu season is gearing up, with the CDC reporting high to moderate flu activity for the Maryland/DC/Virginia area as of the end of the week of December 22, 2018.  We anticipate even more flu activity, especially on the UMD campus when students return for the Spring 2019 semester.

So remember, if you start feeling sick with cold and/or flu symptoms, contact the CATCH the Virus Study right away!  Your participation is critical for helping us understand Influenza and other respiratory virus transmission!

Adenovirus at UMD – What you need to know

While respiratory infections are common on college campuses, especially as the winter sets in and finals begin, a recent outbreak of Adenovirus on the University of Maryland campus has caused some concern.  So far, there have been 22 confirmed cases of Adenovirus, resulting in serious respiratory symptoms and in one unfortunate case, the death of a freshman student who passed away due to complications of the infection.  This outbreak has prompted a lot of concern on campus, and the university has responded with numerous statements from the campus health center warning of the signs and symptoms and making suggestions to anyone suffering from cold or flu like symptoms to be tested for Adenovirus.

What, exactly, is Adenovirus?  Adenoviruses are a group of relatively common viruses that mainly affect the respiratory system in the human host; however there are strains of the virus that can cause more serious illnesses, including Adenovirus serotype 7, which is the culprit in the serious outbreak at UMD.

The common symptoms of Adenovirus include fever, coughs, sore throat, diarrhea, and pink eye. Adenovirus is highly contagious and can be spread through both fomite (objects that carry infection) and aerosol (infectious particles in the air) transmission. Although Adenovirus infection is common and typically only presents mild symptoms, there is an exception in the case of people with weakened immune systems, such as those with chronic illnesses or people who have existing cardiac and respiratory diseases, who can develop serious and even life-threatening symptoms. The symptoms can be severe, such as pneumonia and inflammation of the brain, and can even be deadly in certain cases.

The best way for students at University of Maryland to protect themselves from contracting Adenovirus is constant hand sanitation, avoidance of touching surfaces that are touched by a lot of people in a day, and the avoidance of touching hands to the face before properly sanitizing them. It is best for students to be cautious no matter if they are in their dorms or classes. Carrying around hand sanitizer, coughing into their arms, and most importantly, staying home when feeling sick are the best ways to prevent the spread of this infection. Additionally, students with existing medical conditions are strongly urged to go to the health center or urgent care within 48 hour of developing symptoms to get proper medical treatment before the symptoms develop into something more serious.

Guess who’s back?

That’s right, CATCH is returning for another year of sample collection!

We’ll be making some changes but the bare bones are the same:

  • If you get a cold or the flu, we want you and,
  • If you’re friends with someone that has a cold or the flu, we may ask you to come help us out too
  • We want you to download our Smartphone app to help examine how sick people are interacting

Some changes that we’re making include:

  • Sending a daily message to check in with you and ask if you’re feeling OK
  • Recruiting people at the UHC; if you get a positive flu test at the health center, we want you to visit us
  • Following students outside the Cambridge Community, or even off campus.

That’s all folks!

Thank you to everyone that participated in the 2017/2018 academic year!!!


We ended up with 164 participants who visited the clinic, with a total of 627 visits, 264 downloads of the Smartphone App, which ended up collecting over 1.8 MILLION data points, and 283 completed baseline surveys.  All of this means we got some amazing data, and were able to give out $___ in compensation to our amazing participants!


The clinical visits were divided into several categories, as indicated by the figure below.  A “Brief Case” visit was made when a person reported they were feeling ill.  If they met certain criteria that suggested they may be sick with one of our target viruses, they also provided samples for an “In Depth Case” visit.  Those that were confirmed to be infected with a target pathogen provided the names of their closest contacts, who were then invited in for a “Contact” visit. contacts that became infected with the same virus as their nominator were brought in as a “Secondary Case.” Finally, those that filled in our Baseline Survey at the beginning of the study were invited to provide a final set of samples as part of a “Study Completion“ visit.


Using our TaqMan Array system, we were able to screen our participants for over 40 different pathogens.  The viral infections we were most interested in this semester included Influenza (both A and B), Coronaviruses, Adenovirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and Human Parainfluenza Viruses. A breakdown of the number infections we detected is in the figure, right.


Other infections we were able to detect from our participant samples with our assay included Bacterial infections, such as:

  • Mycoplasma pneumonia,
  • Streptococcus pneumonia,
  • Streptococcus pyogenes, and
  • Bordetella parapertussis.

Other viral infections detected with the assay included:

  • Astrovirus,
  • Epstein-Barr Virus, and
  • Human Metapnuemo Virus.


Most of the infections we detected were a result of Rhinovirus, which while not necessarily one of our target viruses of interest, isn’t that surprising.  They don’t call it the “common cold” for nothing! Some unlucky people were actually infected with multiple viruses, which can be seen in Table 1, detailing coinfections in our participant population.

Another piece of our overall study was monitoring the CO2 levels in the dormitories of the Cambridge Community. CO2 levels can be used to estimate the amount of exhaled breath in a room, which in turn can be used to estimate your exposure risk to respiratory viruses.  Within the Cambridge Community, Cambridge Hall recently underwent renovations, to include a new HVAC system, which allows for air exchange with the outside.  In contrast, Centerville Hall’s ventilation system does not allow for this exchange with the outdoor air supply.  We wanted to examine what affect this difference in ventilation systems might have on infection rates, and found that there was a difference in the number of viral infections between participants residing in buildings with high outdoor air exchange and buildings with low outdoor air exchange.



Number of Residents Cases
All Viral Agents
(rate per 100)
Target 5 Agents
(rate per 100)
High Outdoor Air Exchange 200 2 (1) 2(1)
Low Outdoor Air Exchange 533 53(9.9) 49(9.2)
Not in Targeted Residence Halls 772 20(2.6) 20(2.6)
Total 1505 75 71


Congratulations to Our May and End of Semester Winners for Downloading the Smartphone App!

We want to say a big congratulations to our final two winners.  One was awarded our final monthly prize of $20 and a Giant Microbe, and the other was our big, end-of-semester, and she also won a Giant Microbe, as well as $500!!!

Our final, end-of-semester winner, showing off her Influenza Giant Microbe!


Thanks to all who downloaded the app, it allowed us to collect some great data and will help us to better understand how contact can impact respiratory virus transmission!

Congratulations to our April Smartphone App Download winners!

We’d like to send congratulations out to the winners of our April prize drawings!

Both of these winners received $20 and a Giant Microbe (flu on the left, Rhinovirus on the right).


If you would like a chance to win one of our bimonthly prizes, all you need to do is DOWNLOAD and run our Smartphone App.  Also remember that we’ll have a drawing at the end of the semester and award the winner $500!!!  It’s not too late to download the app and earn entries to win our end of semester prize!

CATCH Presents at UMD Public Health Research Day!

This past Tuesday several students working with CATCH were able to present their work with the study at the Public Health Research @Maryland Day, an event brining together researchers from the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and other state and regional community, public health and academic partners.

 Students created posters to present data collected from a variety of study-related subprojects, as well as those reporting the current results of the study overall.

There was a lot of interest in the different projects, and the students did a great job explaining their work and answering questions, even when being grilled by judges.

Overall it was a great event, and a great experience, especially for the undergraduate RAs! Copies of the posters can be viewed on the CATCH website

Congratulations to our first March Smartphone App Download winner!

We’d like to send congratulations to the winner of our first March drawing for downloading and running our Smartphone App!

Like our previous winner, she gets $20 and a Giant Microbe (she chose Mono).


If you would like a chance to win one of our bimonthly prizes, all you need to do is DOWNLOAD and run our Smartphone App.  Also remember that we’ll have a drawing at the end of the semester and award the winner $500!!!  It’s not too late to download the app and earn entries to win our end of semester prize!

Exciting News!

We have some exciting news to report: the CATCH study is expanding!

Now anyone that lives in the Cambridge Community is eligible to participate in all aspects of the study!

How can you participate? Well, you can:

  • Fill out a Baseline Survey (sent via email)
  • Download our smartphone app
  • Come see us and give some samples when you feel sick, and/or
  • Visit when we let you know a friend of yours is sick and has named you as a contact.


Our study will run through the end of the semester, so there is still plenty of time to help us CATCH the virus!


If you have any questions or want to participate, contact us at:

424 -GOTFLU (424-246-8358)

CATCH UGRAs, hard at work

One of the great things about the CATCH student is the extensive student involvement by our Undergraduate Research Assistants (UGRAs).  We have students working both in the clinic, gathering samples from our cases and contacts, and in the lab, processing these samples.

Clinical UGRAs greet the participants, go through the consent with them, and then get some basic information like temperature.

Then, depending on what type of visit that participant is there for, they’ll give some samples.  Clinical UGRAs can take MT swab samples, and capillary blood samples.

Samples are then brought up to the lab, where our Lab UGRAs take over.  Serum and swabs are processed and logged.

The swab samples are then analyzed to determine what, if anything, the participant is infected with.

We are so grateful for all of our UGRA assistance, and are really excited to be able to offer so many students that opportunity to participate in the CATCH project!

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