HASKELL, New Jersey -- Six children are dead and 12 others sick following a severe viral outbreak at a rehabilitation center in New Jersey.
The state Department of Health on Tuesday confirmed 18 cases of adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, Passaic County.
Adenoviruses usually cause mild illnesses, but the health department says this outbreak is particularly severe because it is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems.
"This strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living facilities," the department said in a statement. "The combination of a worse strain of adenovirus together with a fragile population has led to a more severe outbreak."
The conditions of the other 12 victims are unknown. The facility has been instructed to not admit any new patients until the outbreak ends.
"Adenovirus is very contagious virus," said Dr. Sejal Bhavsar, of Hackensack University Medical Center. "However, in these situations, they are very contagious in long-term facilities because they are often transported by sneezing and coughing, but also the particles that are past from sneezing and coughing land on other objects. And other people go and touch it and then touch their mouths without washing their hands. That's how they can obtain the virus."
A health department team is at the facility, and an inspection team was also there Sunday. The team on Sunday found minor hand-washing deficiencies, and the department is continuing to work closely with the facility on infection control issues.
This is an ongoing outbreak investigation.
Wanaque Center administrator Rowena Bautista issued the following statement:
"The Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation has recently experienced some cases of the Adenovirus in its pediatric unit. The facility promptly notified all appropriate government agencies when the virus was initially identified, including the New Jersey Department of Health, The Passaic County Department of Health, The Communicable Disease Service and the Centers for Disease Control. The Wanaque Center continues to fully cooperate with these agencies and has sought out their medical guidance with respect to the virus. As a result, facility staff have diligently implemented all available infection control and prevention measures in order to protect the health and safety of the Wanaque Center's residents."
6 kids dead, 12 sick in viral outbreak at New Jersey rehabilitation center