HASKELL, N.J — After the death of seven children from adenovirus, with a total of 18 infected, state health officials confirmed Wednesday night that the state will maintain a permanent presence at the Wanaque Center for Health and Rehabilitation in Haskell until the deadly outbreak is over.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials hosted a briefing outside the center late in the afternoon, which one concerned parent attended because she said she's struggling to get answers from the facility where her step-son lives.
"I have not been notified, so my biggest concern is communication for families and parents," said Rosemarie McPartland, who added that her stepson Matthew has been cared for by the facility for decades after he suffered catastrophic brain damage in a car crash as a boy.
"I'm concerned about the kids that have no voices here," Rosemarie McPartland said.
The mother also expressed concern that she often takes laundry home from the facility and since she had no idea about the possibility of infection, she continued to go to work at a public school.
The state has banned the Wanaque Center from accepting new patients until the virus is contained. The outbreak spread through the respiratory unit of the facility.
Symptoms of the adenovirus and how it is spread is similar to that of a common cold. Patients can also suffer from a sore throat, diarrhea, fever and other symptoms lasting about 10 days. People with weakened immune systems are most at risk for getting seriously sick or dying from the adenovirus.
When or how quickly it may have spread inside the Wanaque Center is unclear.
The State Department of Health was first notified by Wanaque on Oct. 9, and the Center sent warning letters to patient’s families on Oct. 19. The Wanaque Center is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
So far, a team of state investigators did find lapses in hand washing at the facility, and a recent health inspection by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid ranked the center as "below average."
A nurses union representing 70 caretakers at the facility stated today that:
“Nurses have reported a shortage of nursing staff which may lead to poor infection control practices that can put patient safety at risk," said HPAE Local 5107 President Debbie White. “Additionally, the unionized staff have urged administration to provide adequate supplies to protect patients from cross contamination including protective gowns, gloves and masks which can reduce patients’ exposure to the virus."
Names and ages of the children infected are not being released, but health officials said that the dead range from toddlers to teens.
Four weeks must pass without a new case of the virus for the outbreak to be declared over.