Adenovirus outbreak sickens many children

On Monday, November 5, 2018, New Jersey’s Department of Health announced that a total of thirty-four children have become sick, including eleven deaths, which is connected to an adenovirus type 7 outbreak at Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.

Adenovirus type 7 is “most commonly associated with acute respiratory disease,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

According to the CDC, adenoviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of illnesses and medical issues such as sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and conjunctivitis (pink eye).

Furthermore, adenoviruses are spread like the common cold: from person to person via coughing and/or sneezing, or by touching something with the virus already on it and then touching a person’s mouth, nose, or eyes.

The incubation period for adenovirus can be as long as two weeks.

Although mostly children are the victims of the current outbreak at the New Jersey facility, anyone can become ill with an adenovirus infection. People with weak immune systems, respiratory problems, or cardiac disease are more susceptible to get sick from this kind of infection.

All but one case (a staff member) are children with weakened immune systems and other serious medical issues, such as respiratory problems. The staff member who was infected at the facility has recovered.

Since November 20, state health officials in New Jersey have begun readmitting “medically fragile” children to the Wanaque facility. Three children have returned, with parent’s permission, while other families do not want their children to return to the facility due to fear of them getting sick again.  

However, the viral strain – adenovirus type 7 – is said to pose no threat to those that have already recovered at the hospital, as they cannot be infected with the same type of virus, according to state Health Department Spokeswoman Dawn Thomas.

The health department also announced on Monday that in a different New Jersey facility, Voorhees Pediatric Facility, another outbreak of adenovirus has occurred. More specifically, there have been thirteen confirmed cases, thus far.

CDC tests suggest that the culprit is adenovirus type 3, a different and milder strain than the one at the Wanaque facility. No deaths have occurred and no patients who have the virus are in critical condition.

The Voorhees facility has not been accepting new admissions as of November 1. Exposed patients have been separated from the general population, but it is understood that additional cases may be expected due to the virus’s ability to survive in the environment.

“The Department and local health partners have been working with the facility to provide infection control recommendations and identify other possible illnesses since the [Voorhees] facility notified the Department of a case of adenovirus in a resident on October 26,” New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Shereef Elnahal said.

Health officials are increasing efforts to strengthen infection control at facilities in the state. To accomplish this, they, in cooperation with the health department, announced plans, which include infection control experts visiting University Hospital and four pediatric long-term care facilities this month, including the Wanaque and Voorhees facilities, where the experts will train staff and reevaluate how these facilities prevent and control infections.

“Facility outbreaks are not always preventable, but in response to what we have seen in Wanaque, we are taking aggressive steps to minimize the chance they occur among the most vulnerable patients in New Jersey,” Elnahal also said.

Besides the outbreaks that occurred in New Jersey this past month, nine more cases, including one death, of adenovirus have been reported at the University of Maryland (UMD), as of last month.

To provide a timeline, the first case of the virus was reported at UMD on November 1, and the student was hospitalized.  On November 5, a second student was also hospitalized. On November 7, the university cleaned surfaces in attempts to control the spread of the virus. On November 19, UMD officials were notified that six students had the virus.

On November 18, Olivia Paregol, a freshman at the university, died due to adenovirus complications. And on November 20, the school notified the public of her death.

At the time, Paregol was taking medication for her Crohn’s disease. Her father, Ian Paregol, said she went to the campus health center when she felt ill but was not initially tested for adenovirus. Her family later learned on November 13 that she did, in fact, have adenovirus. Five days later, she died.

Health experts now say the university is officially dealing with an outbreak of adenovirus.

“She was just, like, the happiest, most amazing person ever. And then she got really