6 children dead, 12 sick in viral outbreak at NJ rehabilitation center

Six children have died, and 12 others have become sick as part of an adenovirus outbreak at a rehabilitation center in New Jersey, state health officials said Tuesday.

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Officials said they had confirmed 18 cases of adenovirus among pediatric residents at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell. Six of the cases were fatal.

According to the rehabilitation center's website, the Wanaque Center works with "medically fragile children," from newborns to people who are 22 years old.

“Unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus (#7) in this outbreak is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems,” New Jersey Department of Health officials said Tuesday. “The strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living arrangements and can be more severe.”

Adenovirus is typically spread through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands with an infected person, in the air through coughing or sneezing, or by touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it and then touching one’s mouth, nose or eyes before washing hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Jersey health officials said an inspection team found “minor handwashing deficiencies” during a check of the facility Sunday.

In a statement obtained by WABC, Wanaque Center administrator Rowena Bautista said staff members notified government agencies, including the New Jersey Department of Health and the CDC, after determining that the facility was in the midst of an adenovirus outbreak.

“The Wanaque Center continues to fully cooperate with these agencies and has sought out their medical guidance with respect to the virus,” she said. “As a result, facility staff have diligently implemented all available infection control and prevention measures in order to protect the health and safety of the Wanaque Center's residents."

According to the CDC, adenoviruses can cause a wide range of illnesses that typically range from mild to severe, though severe cases are less common. People with weakened immune systems or respiratory or cardiac diseases are at higher risk of developing severe illnesses from an infection of adenovirus.

New Jersey Department of Health officials said Tuesday that employees of Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation have been instructed not to admit any new patients until after the outbreak ends.

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