Ahas killed a seventh child, officials said Wednesday. The state's Department of Health said the child's death was associated with an adenovirus outbreak at a facility that cares for children with severe disabilities and medical problems.
There have been 18 total cases of adenovirus among pediatric residents at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, located in Haskell, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. Six other children died of the infection over the past two weeks.
"The Department continues to work very closely with the facility to ensure that all infection control measures are being followed," the department's communications director, Donna Leusner, said in a statement Wednesday. "An outbreak investigation, with assistance from the CDC, is ongoing."
Adenoviruses are a family of viruses that account for about 5 to 10 percent of fevers in young children, but most patients recover. The infections can affect the tissue linings of the respiratory tract, eyes, intestines, urinary tract and nervous system, causing illnesses ranging from a cold to bronchitis to pneumonia to pink eye. The children at Wanaque appear to have been more susceptible to serious infections due to their other medical conditions.
"Unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus (#7) in this outbreak is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems," the department said in a statement Tuesday. "The strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living arrangements and can be more severe."
Children at the center are severely disabled, with some living in comas, and for many, it is their permanent home, the Bergen Record reports. Many will never walk or talk, and some have spent virtually their whole lives there, according to the paper.
"Kids at facilities like this tend to be quite ill," said CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. "So they may have a breathing tube, they may be in a coma — some kind of underlying medical condition that severely weakens their immune system, and that makes them an easy target for this virus."
Adenovirus is spread from one infected person to another through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; coughing or sneezing; or touching a contaminated object or surface, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands. It can also be spread through contact with an infected person's stool, including during diaper changing.