Adenovirus continues to plague a New Jersey children’s care facility where 20 patients have now been sickened and 10 have died.
Another pediatric facility has now reported five cases of the virus, though officials believe that a different, weaker strain of the virus is affecting children there.
The lethal outbreak at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, New Jersey, began in late September, spreading among children with weakened immune systems.
An investigation of Wanaque indicated that the staff’s poor hand washing practices might be fueling the viral spread.
The most recent outbreak at Voorhees Pediatric Facility is also affecting immunocompromised children, and milder cases of the virus among the general public may be more common this season due to the warmer, wetter autumn.
Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that infect the linings of the eyes, lungs, intestines, urinary tract, and nervous system. A strong strain of the virus has sickened 30 children
Adenovirus is, typically, a mild bug that causes the common cold.
The virus infects the respiratory system, causing a sore throat, chest and throat congestion, coughing, pink eye and fever.
But the virus acts very similarly to the flu, and is often mistaken for it.
In fact, adenovirus can feel even worse than the flu.
Like most bugs, it has many different strains with different strenghts.
The type striking the Wanaque Center in New Jersey is adenovirus seven.
It is most often seen in communal living settings, like Wanaque and Voorhees, thriving and spreading where people touch each others things and are breathing, coughing and sneezing in close quarters.
This strain in particular is known to prove deadly in some cases.
Meanwhile, at the Voorhees facility, the five cases diagnosed so far are type three.
‘Type 3 is typically associated with a milder illness than the Type 7 identified at Wanaque, however it is still sometimes associated with severe illness and even death,’ the New Jersey Department of Health said in a statement on Monday.
Other studies group the two strains together, and categorize the pair as potentially fatal, especially to children.
The virus spreads in droplets expelled into the air or onto surfaces from coughs, sneezes or tears.
But even wiping down potentially contaminated areas only goes so far against adenovirus. It is notoriously stubborn against disinfectant sprays and wipes.
WHAT IS ADENOVIRUS AND WHY ARE SOME STRAINS DEADLY?
There are over 100 types of adenovirus, of which 49 can infect humans.
Versions of the virus underlie several of the mots common illnesses that strike humans, including gastronteritis (stomach flu) ,pink eye and the common cold.
Adenoviruses that infect the respiratory system typically cause a sore throat, chest congestion, coughing, sneezing and fever.
Some strains, including type three, are mild, and very rarely life threatening.
But others, such as type seven can cause much more severe illness.
These stronger strains may even be deadly, particularly for children and those with compromised immune systems.
Adenovirus sometimes ‘masquerades’ as the flu.
Its symptoms can feel just as bad, but of course will turn up a negative flu test.
Like most viruses, there is no specific treatment for adenovirus except to manage the symptoms and wait it out.
Last week, the Health Department sent a inspectors to Wanaque and University Hospitals.
At Wanaque, the team found that staff members were not properly washing their hands.
Because the virus is stubborn and resistant to antimicrobial chemicals, the best way to minimize its spread is through ‘mechanically’ removing it from the skin through the physical act of scrubbing.
Outbreaks of adenovirus inevitably happen periodically, but the climate may be driving the apparent uptick in serious adenovirus infections – in health care settings and the general public alike.
Adenovirus is among a group of diseases in the so-called North Atlantic Oscillation indices.
Along with measles, viral meningitis and gastroenteritis, cases of adenovirus increased in Europe when temperatures were higher and it rained more, according to a 2013 study.
In October, the average temperature for the month in New Jersey was 57.4F and the average daily precipitation is 3.68 inches.
This year’s temperatures and October rainfall were closely in line with these averages, but there was some kind of precipitation 32 days that month. Normally, it only rains about nine days in October in New Jersey.
A wetter climate may help explain higher rates of the flu-like infection in the general population, but it doesn’t explain what’s happening to the children in health facilities.
The New Jersey Health Department says that that is on the facilities and health officials in general.
‘We also need to think about whether there is more we can do as healthcare leaders to protect immunocompromised children, such as those served at Wanaque Center,’ said Commissioner Shareef Elnahal.
‘Every year in the state, there are hundreds of outbreaks at healthcare facilities,’ but better training for outbreak containment might help to reduce the deaths that come with viral spreads in these settings.