Seven died and at least 11 others were infected in an adenovirus outbreak among medically fragile children in a New Jersey health care facility
Adenoviruses may cause mild flu-like illness in healthy people, but people with weakened immune systems may be at greater risk
Health officials continue to investigate after seven people died and at least 11 others have been infected with an adenovirus at a New Jersey health care facility, the New Jersey Department of Health said Wednesday.
This is up from the six deaths announced Tuesday among medically fragile children at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, New Jersey.
“They range in age from toddlers to young adults,” New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal told reporters Wednesday. “The vast majority are under the age of 18. Some have been hospitalized, and some are being cared for at this facility.”
The outbreak appears to be confined to the facility’s respiratory unit, he added.
While the timing of the deaths remains unclear, the health department was notified of respiratory illness at the facility on October 9. The facility notified parents ten days later, on October 19, according to health department spokeswoman Nicole Kirgan.
“Health professionals and other people don’t think of the common cold as being serious, but when you’re a child, disabled, chronic disease, immunosuppressed, elderly, multiple medical conditions, the common cold can be life-threatening,” said Dr. David Gifford, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs for the American Health Care Association.
The association – whose member organizations represent nursing homes and other health care facilities across the country – does not own or operate individual facilities. Though the Wanaque facility is a member of the national organization by default, Gifford said the association does not take positions to individually represent individual facilities.
Gifford said that the amount of time it takes to respond to a potential outbreak and notify families is variable. “There are so many nuances,” he said, including how long health experts need to investigate a potential outbreak, culture a virus and confirm its identity.
“Generally, if you’re seeing a number of people in an institutional setting who have an illness, you start to take some precautions about the spread,” said Gifford, but that may not necessarily include notifying families of something that initially resembles a common cold.
In a statement Tuesday, the Wanaque facility said it “promptly notified all appropriate government agencies when the virus was initially identified.” On Wednesday, an additional statement by the facility said the health department “continues to work very closely with the facility to ensure that all infection control measures are being followed.”
The facility did not respond to multiple calls and emails for further comment. It has been “instructed not to admit any new patients until the outbreak ends and they are in full compliance,” according to the state health department. According to Elnahal, the outbreak can only be declared over once four weeks pass without an additional case.
“Nursing homes don’t call the health department that often,” Gifford said, though there has been a push for nursing homes and health care facilities to get health departments involved in outbreak investigations earlier.
Adenoviruses are known to persist on unclean surfaces and medical instruments for long periods of time, may not be eliminated by common disinfectants, and rarely cause severe illness in healthy people. However, people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk for severe disease, and they may