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Nine children have died as a result of a viral outbreak at a pediatric care and rehabilitation center in Haskell, New Jersey.

Between September 26, 2018, and October 22, 2018, an adenovirus spread throughout the facility, particularly among residents of the pediatric ventilator unit.  Since then, nine children have died, while there have been 25 confirmed cases of the illness.

What is This Virus and What can it do?

Adenoviruses are common germs that impact the membrane linings of the respiratory system, the eyes, urinary tract, and intestines.  They cause many familiar afflictions like pinkeye, colds, croup, diarrhea, and bronchitis, among others.  The symptoms of an adenovirus are what you might expect from a contagious, crowd-spreading virus, including:

  • Sneezing, runny eyes
  • Viral shedding and spreading through diaper changes
  • Congestion, fatigue, runny nose

Like many viruses that cause colds, adenoviruses spread when patients inhale microscopic viral droplets of a sneeze from across the room, or touch a contaminated object and then put their hands in the mouth, nose, or eyes.  According to the New Jersey Department of Health, the type of adenovirus causing this outbreak is known to take advantage of communal settings.

In this case, the virus has taken the lives of nine children who were “medically fragile.”  The Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation is a long term care facility for chronically ill and disabled children.  Because many of these children have weak or compromised immune systems, they are a natural target for a virus that can quickly cause severe illness.

Control Measures are in Place But HAI Continues

While the Health Department reports infection control measures and protocols are in place, the healthcare-associated infection (HAI) continues to sicken and in some cases, kill its already weak victims.  Most of the current victims resided in the pediatric ventilator unit, and suffered severe respiratory conditions prior to the viral outbreak.  Authorities note most of the children who were sickened, and those who died, ranged in age from toddlers to 18 years of age.

In short- or long-term care settings, effective contagion control is critical to avoid the type of outbreak experienced at the Center.  For young or older patients, ventilators are a common source of HAI.  When equipment is not properly sterilized or maintained, ventilators provide an easy inroad to infection of the human respiratory tract.  When patients are housed in a community setting, the risk of infection is high.  Stringent hygiene is essential to avoid outbreaks such as the adenovirus stalking the Wanaque Center.

Health officials continue to monitor the outbreak and should eventually be able to map the devastating spread of the virus in this chronic care facility.  While lessons will be learned, it will be too late for the children and families that have already fallen victim to the outbreak.

Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys can Help You

Schochor, Staton, Goldberg, and Cardea, P.A. is a leading medical malpractice law firm with a track record of winning complex cases against institutional defendants and individual physicians.  If you or a family member suffers a healthcare-associated infection or medical negligence, we can help.  Contact us today or call 410-234-1000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.