7 children dead in adenovirus outbreak in New Jersey

Seven children have died after a “severe outbreak” of adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, New Jersey, according to health officials.

According to a statement from the New Jersey Department of Health, 12 other children have also been infected by the adenovirus, including “medically fragile children,” some of whom were on ventilators and had trachea tubes. The seventh deaths came as a result of the 18 infected kids.

“This is an ongoing outbreak investigation,” said department spokeswoman Nicole Kirgan in the statement. “A department team is at the facility [Monday] and an inspection team was also there Sunday. The team on Sunday found minor hand washing deficiencies and the Health Department is continuing to work closely with the facility on infection control issues.”

Exactly when the virus broke out is still unclear. The Department of Health said the virus was notified of respiratory illness at the facility on Oct. 9, and six days later they sent out a letter to the patients parents informing them about the outbreak.

What is an adenovirus?

Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that can infect the membranes (tissue linings) of the respiratory tract, eyes, intestines, urinary tract, and nervous system, according toKidsHealth. It’s a common virus that causes a range of illness symptoms such as a sore throat, diarrhea, pink eye, and fever.

Kids with weakened immune systems, or existing respiratory or cardiac disease, are at higher risk of developing severe illness from an adenovirus infection.

“Unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus in this outbreak is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems,” said Kirgan. “The strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living arrangements and can be more severe.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adenoviruses are normally spread from an infected person to others through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, coughing and sneezing. Cases, where people are dying as a result of the virus, are particularly rare. The easiest way to prevent getting infected by the virus is by washing your hands frequently and to avoid touching your face.

The Health Department Statements explained that “the facility has been instructed to not admit any new patients until the outbreak ends and they are in full compliance.”

“ I have been briefed by Dr. Shereef Elnahal (Commissioner of Health), who has assured me that the Department of Health has recommended vital measures to enhance protections against the further spread of infection and will continue its active on-site surveillance,” Philip Murphy, New Jersey Gov, said in a statement.

“I am confident that the steps being taken by state and local officials will minimize the impact to all those who remain at the facility, including patients and employees.”

Spokeswoman Kirgan explains in the statement that in a severe virus outbreak like this case, there are several infection control steps that are recommended to control respiratory virus outbreaks.

These steps include environmental cleaning with an EPA-registered disinfectant, separating ill patients from healthy patients, requiring that staff use gloves and masks when treating patients, and reviewing proper hand washing protocol.