Officials Can’t Explain What’s Killing NJ Kids; 7 Dead

Gov. Phil Murphy, left, speaks about the deadly adenovirus outbreak in Wanaque, NJ. State Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef, right, says the facility will not be closed. (Photo: Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com)

How did a virus at a child care facility kill seven kids? State officials don’t know

North Jersey Record – A day after a seventh child died from exposure to a virus at a long-term care center in Wanaque, state officials on Wednesday had few answers about the cause of the outbreak and parents raised questions about how the news was delivered to them.

Parents and unions representing nurses and other workers at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation said they weren’t informed of the severity of the outbreak until it was much too late.

The 18 affected patients, including the seven who died, were all children, the Health Department said.

Kristine Deleg, whose 16-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Poulous, died Tuesday morning after being stricken with the adenovirus, said Wednesday that there was a heavy lag in communication.

“A breakdown in communication”

Deleg said Elizabeth was admitted to St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson on Oct. 3, but that she wasn’t told about the adenovirus outbreak until she received a letter from the facility on Monday, nearly three weeks later. Elizabeth died the next day. [The facility bills itself as taking “a family approach to caring.” Its website claims to “diligently addresses each residents’ needs promptly.” See statement below. – Ed.]

“There was definitely a breakdown in communication,” Deleg said.

The facility has been barred from admitting new patients until the outbreak is declared to be over.

Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation has no mention of this deadly viral outbreak on its website. It describes itself as follows: 

“The Wanaque Center is a professional nursing home, rehabilitation center and pediatrics center which offers short and long-term care in a secure and caring environment. When a resident is admitted to our home, our skilled team of trained professionals meets with the resident and family member, providing a unique and highly personalized plan of care.

Through our Family Approach to Caring we are able to provide a lively and caring community with a staff that diligently addresses each residents’ needs promptly. Our residents are continually assessed for changes to optimize their function and quality of life. Our plan of care always reflects the residents’ individual and personal choices.” http://www.wanaquerehab.com/

The state health commissioner, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, said the facility could not be closed, because few places in New Jersey are equipped to treat its patients.

Adenoviruses are common viruses that affect the lining of the airways, intestines, eyes or urinary tract and are responsible for some colds, coughs, sore throats, pinkeye, and diarrhea. Usually, the illnesses are mild, but they can be deadly for people with weakened immune systems.

Neighbors expressed sympathy for the families of the children. “It’s a shame,” said Mike Borer of Westwood, who was interviewed at a strip mall on Ringwood Avenue near the center. “They’re just starting their lives.” Read more. (Coverage continues below … )

PREVIOUSLY ON HEADLINE HEALTH: 

With 7 kids dead, questions mount about response to a viral outbreak

NJ.com – The state Department of Health is sending a full-time disease control specialist to the facility where seven children have died following a viral outbreak, as part of an effort to stem the deadly respiratory infections that swept through the unit that had cared for them.

At the same time, officials say they are examining how to bolster infection control rules and regulations — not just at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, where the adenovirus outbreak occurred — but at similar health facilities across the state.

At a press conference in Wanaque late in the day, Gov. Phil Murphy said his administration is “obsessed” with trying to find out what happened.

“We are completely and utterly gutted by the knowledge that seven precious young children have lost their lives,” he said. “We don’t have all the answers, but we’re working to get them.”

Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal, who was at the afternoon briefing, said he is also planning to meet privately with the families of those stricken by the virus, which included kids as young as toddlers.

“This is a tragedy,” said Elnahal in an interview earlier in the day. “It’s extremely upsetting, given the patients involved. They are children.”(Read more.) 

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