9th child dies after virus outbreak at New Jersey facility

Nine children have been reported dead at a New Jersey nursing home in the last week, at least eight from viruses that cause respiratory illness, the state health department said. The ninth victim, described as “medically fragile with respiratory illness” by the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, died late Saturday night at a hospital, the state health department said in a statement. It is awaiting laboratory confirmation of adenoviruses in a child who died Friday. The viruses are known to persist on unclean surfaces and medical instruments, and may not be eliminated by common disinfectants, but they rarely cause severe illness in healthy people. Those with weakened immune systems, though, have a higher risk for severe disease and may remain infectious long after they recover, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. They are common in places with large groups of children, such as child-care settings, schools and summer camps. There have been 25 confirmed pediatric adenovirus cases at Wanaque, including the eight child deaths. The confirmed cases became ill between September 26 and October 22. A staff member also became ill but has recovered, the health department said. The health department said this week the facility had been “instructed not to admit any new patients until the outbreak ends and they are in full compliance.” The timing of the deaths is not clear. The health department was notified of respiratory illness at the center on October 9. Wanaque sent parents of children at the facility letters about the infection on October 19, according to the health department. On Tuesday the New Jersey Department of Health announced the death of six pediatric residents at the center and the infection of 12 additional residents. Wednesday the department announced an additional child death. The department said it is an active outbreak investigation and lab tests could confirm additional cases. A team at the facility on Sunday found minor hand-washing deficiencies. “The Department continues to work very closely with the facility to ensure that all infection control measures are being followed,” the Wanaque facility said in a statement Wednesday. The children’s ages are not being released to protect patient privacy, said Nicole Kirgan, a health department spokeswoman. They ranged in age “from a toddler through young adults, but most are under 18.” The outbreak, caused by adenovirus type 7, “is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems. The strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living arrangements and can be more severe,” according to the health department.

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