Six children dead, 12 sick in viral outbreak at New Jersey facility

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Six young patients died and 12 others became sick following an outbreak of adenovirus at a rehabilitation centre in Haskell, New Jersey, the state's Health Department said on Tuesday.

Of these 18 cases, there have unfortunately been six deaths of pediatric residents, according to WABC.

Adenoviruses usually just cause mild illnesses.

"The combination of a worse strain of adenovirus together with a fragile population has led to a more severe outbreak", it added. "The strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living arrangements and can be severe".

Inspectors from the Department of Health visited the facility on Sunday and found "minor handwashing deficiencies".

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A team from the health department were on hand at the center Tuesday to investigate. For example in 1997, an outbreak of adenovirus 7 at a U.S. Navy training center sickened more than 350 people, according to a 2002 report.

The facility promptly notified all appropriate government agencies when the virus was initially identified, including the New Jersey Department of Health, The Passaic County Department of Health, The Communicable Disease Service and the Centers for Disease Control. The department is not releasing exact ages of any patients because of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and privacy reasons, Kirgan said. "I have been briefed by [Commissioner of Health] Dr. Elnahal, who has assured me that the Department of Health has recommended vital measures to enhance protections against the further spread of infection and will continue its active on-site surveillance".

Adenoviruses can cause a wide range of illnesses such as common cold, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye, fever, bladder inflammation or infection, stomach and intestine inflammation, and neurologic disease, according to the CDC.

The state health department is "continuing to work closely with the facility on infection control issues". The center has pledged to cooperate fully with the investigation, and has solicited medical guidance on the virus, the AP reported.