Seven Children Dead in Adenovirus Outbreak at Care Facility

Adenoviruses are common in places with communal living arrangements and often cause respiratory illness that can range from common cold to pneumonia.

The New Jersey Department of Health has confirmed that 7 pediatric patients at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, NJ have died due an adenovirus outbreak at the facility. In all, including the deceased, there have been 18 confirmed cases so far. The facility is working to contain the outbreak and has been barred from accepting new patients until it is contained. 

Adenoviruses are common in places with communal living arrangements and often cause respiratory illness that can range from common cold to pneumonia; patients with compromised immune systems are at high risk for developing severe illness. Treatment generally includes supportive management of symptoms and complications.

The facility notified the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDoH) of some “respiratory illnesses” on October 9;  families were notified of the outbreak by letter on October 19. On October 21, a health department team inspected the facility and found only minor handwashing deficiencies. “The Department continues to work very closely with the facility to ensure that all infection control measures are being followed,” the NJDoH said in a statement. 

“It’s hard to keep adenoviruses out of health care facilities, and the outbreaks are tenacious,” Dr William Schaffner, infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University told the New York Times, “If you go into a facility, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has done, and you do a full-court press on infection control, the outbreak stops.”

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The Wanaque Center received a 4 out of 5 star rating by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but the health inspection rating scored a below average 2 out of 5 stars. In their subsequent report the inspectors wrote: 

“It was determined that the facility failed to provide a clean and homelike physical environment for their residents.” 

In a statement released today (Oct. 24), the Wanaque Center said, “We […] are actively connected to all disease control authorities at the state and local level in order to implement aggressive protocols and procedures to treat impacted individuals and prevent the spread.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he is “heartbroken” by the news. “Dr Elnahal [The NJDoH Commissioner] 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. 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,” said the Governor. 

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