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Nursing Home Adenovirus Lawsuit Filed Over Infection Outbreak at New Jersey Facility

A lawsuit has been filed by the mother of a teenager who child remains in critical condition due to an adenovirus infection at a New Jersey nursing home, where at least 10 other children have died and dozens of other illnesses have been reported.

Paula Costigan filed the complaint (PDF) on behalf of her son, William T. Delgrosso, and herself in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Passaic County on November 7, naming the Wanaque Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, Continuum Healthcare, and a number of nurses and employees as defendants.

According to allegations in the adenovirus lawsuit, the nursing home and rehab center failed to prevent her son and about 30 other children at the facility from developing the serious and life-threatening infection.

The outbreak began in late September, and Costigan indicates that her son became ill on October 11, developing a high fever and respiratory complications.

While the facility reportedly notified the New Jersey Department of Health about the outbreak on October 9, it failed to notify parents. William suffered serious complications and he was transferred to Hackensack University Medical Center in critical and life-threatening condition. However, Costigan was not notified of her son’s condition until October 22, when she received a letter from the facility, the lawsuit claims.

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.

The lawsuit indicates that William was first admitted to the facility in March 2015, and indicates that the facility has been cited for a number of health violations since that time. The most recent came just a month before the first reports of adenovirus.

In August, health inspectors indicated that a smell of mildew permeated the fourth floor, and found that the carpet had embedded stains and that it was 15 years old and impossible to adequately clean.

The lawsuit also notes that inspectors checked the facility again on October 21 and found that the facility failed to maintain a safe, clean and orderly environment for residents, and failed to have a proper infection prevention and control program.

“During the October 21, 2018 inspection, DOH officials documented that the nursing staff in the pediatric unit failed to utilize hand hygiene techniques according to acceptable standards of infection control practice according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the lawsuit states.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal originally warned that children who are medically fragile and have weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. However, the cleanliness and hygiene practices of the facility have been called into question, and Elnahal also indicated 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 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.

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