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Two more children contract adenovirus at New Jersey pediatric center

Two more children have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal adenovirus that has already killed nine others at the same New Jersey rehabilitation center. 

The most recent case was diagnosed on October 29, and brings the total number of illnesses at the facility to 27 children and one staff member (who has since recovered).  

The news of this latest case comes just after the New Jersey Department of Health issued its report after a surprise inspection of the facility, the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation found that its staff was negligent about hand-washing.   

Otherwise, the health department officials found that that the facility’s staff was taking appropriate precautions during the visit. 

Still, the Department of Health’s commissioner, Dr Shereef Elnahal told NJ Spotlight it would take ‘aggressive steps’ to control infections at Wanaque and University Hospital and prevent outbreaks at other facilities. 

As of Wednesday, October 31, 26 children have been diagnosed with the adenovirus that is spreading at the Wanaque Center in New Jersey. Nine children have died of the virus there

The outbreaks at Wanaque Center and University Hospital have been nightmare scenarios: a silent killer, spreading out of control among already fragile children. 

At Wanaque, the first case of adenovirus was reported to the state health department on October 9. 

Since then, the virus has spread to another 25 children and one staff member there. 

So far, nine children have died there. 

Adenovirus is common among children, causing about 10 percent of all fevers from childhood respiratory infections in the US. 

Most kids will catch an adenovirus before the age of time, but rarely is it fatal – except children whose immune systems are already weakened by other illnesses or disease.  

Some estimates suggest that as many as 50 percent of people with compromised immune systems that contract adenovirus could die from it. 

Fortunately, adenoviruses do not commonly break out in hospitals, but when they do they can become a grave danger to patients very quickly. 

Like the common cold, which is also a viral infection, adenovirus can be spread through coughing and sneezing. You can also catch it if you touch something that has the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. 

For this reason, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water are the best ways to prevent the spread of adenovirus.  

Now that the outbreak turned fatal and struck so many at Wanaque and killed several of them, employees there have escalated precautions and are wearing protective gear, only each seeing assigned patients (and no others), only permitting patients to leave their rooms when absolutely necessary, and not longer accepting new patients.

But, according to the new DOH report, many staffers there are still failing to take the most basic precaution: washing their hands. 

Nine children with compromised immune systems are now confirmed dead and another 11 are ill after contracting adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, New Jersey (pictured)

Nine children with compromised immune systems are now confirmed dead and another 11 are ill after contracting adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, New Jersey (pictured)

It found that ‘four out of six staff were deficient with their hand hygiene technique.’ 

The DOH will cite and fine the facility, and wields the power to shut it down, but so far has no intentions of doing so.

Meanwhile, the department demanded that University Hospital, where four infants that had been in intensive care have died of adenovirus, hire an infectious disease control specialist. 

This week, the hospital submitted the name and application of that new hire to the DOH, which promptly approved the new employee. 

For its part, Wanaque will have to demonstrate that it can improve its sanitary practices, which have gotten it into hot water before. 

Both last year and the year before, Wanaque was written up for poor hand washing as well as unsanitary uses of oxygen tubing and reused needles. 

‘Pediatric long-term care facilities such as the Wanaque Center, and University Hospital’s neonatal ICU, take care of extremely medically fragile infants and children,’ said Dr Elnahal. 

He and the DOH plan to deploy their Control Assessment and Response (ICAR) team to Wanaque, University Hospital and other pediatric facilities to thoroughly train them on prevention of and response to infectious disease outbreaks.   

‘The loss of these young lives is heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with the families who are affected,’ Dr Elnahal said. 

‘We are working closely with the facility to conduct respiratory illness surveillance and ensure all infection control protocols are continuously followed.’ 


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