At least nine children have died as a result of an outbreak of adenovirus infections at a New Jersey rehabilitation center, as local health officials continue to investigate ways to quarantine and prevent the spread of the virus, which may result in additional fatalities.
The New Jersey Department of Health is working with the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation to control a viral infection outbreak that has sickened at least 25 patients, and caused the deaths of nine children. The local health department has ordered the facility to stop taking any new patients until the outbreak is controlled.
Originally, reports indicated that seven children had died and 19 others fell ill due to adenovirus infections. However, the health department now states it is aware of at least two more deaths involving children at the facility since October 25, and six additional illnesses have been confirmed.
Adenovirus is a respiratory viral infection that usually causes mild or serious illness, such as common cold, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye, fever, inflammation of the stomach, bladder and intestines and neurological problems.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adenovirus can thrive on unclean surfaces and especially medical instruments that are not properly disinfected.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal originally warned that children who are medically fragile and have weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable.
The facility is actively working to quarantine the outbreak, however health officials warn the facility is not equipped to quarantine children in its ventilator unit. Elnahal said there is no safe place in the facility to place those dependent on breathing machines, without putting them at greater risk.
The cleanliness and hygiene practices of the facility have been called into question, and Elnahal indicates it was cited in both 2016 and 2017 for washing deficiencies, improper syringe storage, failure to disinfect surfaces and syringes properly and violations for the unsanitary storage of oxygen tank tubing.
The particular strain of adenovirus found in the facility is type 7, which according to the CDC is most commonly associated with respiratory disease and can result in fatal outcomes for those with jeopardized immune systems.
The illnesses have been reported from September 26, 2018 through as recent as this past Friday, October 26, when the last fatality was recorded. Friday’s fatality is the ninth recorded death since the beginning of the outbreak, and officials are running laboratory tests to confirm it is adenovirus-related.
New Jersey health officials are actively working with the facility to test additional patients in the rehabilitation center in an attempt to identify additional cases where symptoms have not yet surfaced.