Six children at a long-term care medical facility in New Jersey have died after a “severe outbreak” of adenovirus, a family of viruses that can cause mild illness, while 12 others have been infected, according to the state's Department of Health.
New Jersey Department of Health officials said children were recently infected with adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, Passaic County. The medical institution houses the Pediatric Center.
The facility has been instructed not to admit any new patients until the outbreak ends and they are in full compliance, the DOH says.
Adenoviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The viruses cause cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye. Adenoviruses can pose serious complications to certain people, particularly those with weakened immune systems, respiratory issues and cardiac disease.
That is the case at the Wanaque Center, health officials said.
"Unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus (#7) in this outbreak is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems," the New Jersey Department of Health in a statement. "This strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living facilities."
According to the CDC, adenoviruses are typically spread from an infected person to others through: close personal contact such touching or shaking hands; through the air by coughing and sneezing; or by touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
Health investigators visited the facility over the weekend as part of their probe, officials said.
The state Department of Health further said that it is monitoring the situation “very closely” and has been in contact with the staff at the center “providing guidance on infection control and cleaning procedures.”
The Wanaque Center is a for-profit facility that, according to its website, works with "with medically fragile children" from newborn to 22 years of age. The center also serves as an adult nursing home and rehabilitation center for short- and long-term care.
A spokesperson for the Wanaque Center did not respond to repeated request for comment.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement on the adenovirus outbreak saying that he is "heartbroken by the news that several children have lost their lives."
"I have been briefed by [Commissioner of Health] Dr. [Shereef] Elnahal, who has assured me that the Department of Health has recommended vital measures to enhance protections against the further spread of infection and will continue its active on-site surveillance," Murphy says in his statement. "I am confident that the steps being taken by state and local officials will minimize the impact to all those who remain at the facility, including patients and employees.”
The cause of the outbreak remains unclear.