Adenovirus outbreak: 11th child dies of viral illness spread at New Jersey’s Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation

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Updated Nov 16, 2018 1:31 PM EST

TRENTON, N.J. — Health officials say an 11th patient has died amid an outbreak of a respiratory virus at a care facility in New Jersey. The state health department on Friday confirmed that the “severely ill child” at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation had the adenovirus infection. The youth died Thursday night in a hospital, but further details about the child were not disclosed.  

The department says the child was among 34 pediatric cases that have been associated with the outbreak.
  
Officials say the affected children became ill between Sept. 26 and Nov. 12. All of them had severely compromised immune systems due to other medical conditions. An additional positive adenovirus case was confirmed late Thursday night. One staff member was also confirmed with the virus but has since recovered.

New Jersey Advance Media reporter Susan Livio has been investigating the outbreak and told CBS News that two staff members she spoke to expressed concern about conditions and management at the facility. The workers, who asked to remain anonymous, said the facility was understaffed to save money and that it delayed getting the sick children to a hospital.

“The workers claim that there was a policy of trying to keep the beds filled as long as possible. Because as soon as the children leave the facility, the facility loses its Medicaid funding, and that’s $519 a day [per patient],” Livio said.

The state health commissioner said moving the children to other care facilities wasn’t a viable option, Livio explained.

“These are children who were born with birth defects, relied on technology to help them eat and breathe — very vulnerable children,” she said. “They needed to just contain the infection and make it work.”

State health inspectors reported finding lax hand-washing among staff that could have helped spread infections.

What is adenovirus?

Adenoviruses are a family of viruses that account for about 5 to 10 percent of fevers in young children. A person can become infected with adenovirus at any age and it causes a range of illnesses, from mild to severe.

Most people who get sick from adenovirus recover after a few days, but people with weakened immune systems, or existing respiratory or cardiac disease, are at higher risk of developing severe complications from an infection. The children at the Wanaque Center are severely disabled, which explains how the outbreak became deadly.

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, the particular strain of adenovirus (#7) involved in the outbreak has been associated with disease in communal living arrangements and can be more severe.

Adenovirus can lead to a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to life-threatening, including:

  • Common cold
  • Sore throat
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Diarrhea
  • Pink eye
  • Fever
  • Bladder inflammation or infection
  • Inflammation of stomach and intestines
  • Neurologic disease

The virus is spread from one infected person to another through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; coughing or sneezing; or touching a contaminated object or surface and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Infection can also be spread through contact with an infected person’s stool, including during diaper changing.

Currently there is no adenovirus vaccine available in the United States to the general public. A vaccine for adenovirus types 4 and 7 was approved in March 2011, but only for U.S. military personnel who may be at higher risk for infection from these viruses.

Simple steps to protect yourself and your family from adenoviruses and other respiratory infections include:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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