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DOH confirms 11th Wanaque patient death

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A child with a confirmed case of adenovirus, who had been a resident of the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, died Thursday night in a North Jersey hospital.

The child becomes the 34th pediatric adenovirus case to have been associated with the current outbreak, and the 11th death.

At a press conference in Woodbridge Friday morning to address yesterday's snow, Gov. Phil Murphy invited New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal to speak.

"We have taken aggressive steps in recent days to mitigate the situation as much as possible given the circumstances we are facing," he said. "This is a severe strain of adenovirus that couldn’t have occurred at a worst place given the medically fragile patients that live at the Wanaque facility."

"As a father it's crushing," Murphy said. "This is one of these viruses that can be in our midst at any moment in time ... but there's a particular strain ... which particularly if you have respiratory issues and you have a fragile immune system it's potentially deadly."

On Thursday, at the direction of the Elnahal, the health department issued a statewide call for members of the New Jersey Medical Reserve Corp. to assist the facility in separating ill from asymptomatic patients. The DOH also requested volunteer respiratory therapists holding active licenses to assist with pediatric care, and nurses and nurse aides with experience caring for pediatric populations with chronic illnesses. 

"Several logistical matters, including reporting structure, are still being finalized. That information will be delivered to the MRC as it is available," Elnahal said.

On Wednesday, the department took enforcement action against the Wanaque Center, prohibiting new admissions to the entire facility and requiring it to hire a certified Infection Control Practioner and a department-approved physician or physician practice with board certification in infectious disease.

The limitations of admissions to the pediatric respiratory unit will remain in effect until Wanaque satisfies the Department’s directive that it separates pediatric residents without symptoms from those who have the virus, including grouping children by lab test status and symptoms. As part of the enforcement action, the health department must approve any requests to re-admit former pediatric respiratory residents.

The DOH said that as a result of a continuously decreasing census, Wanaque now has sufficient space to be able to separate patients. In light of this, the DOH is requiring the Wanaque Center to complete separation of pediatric respiratory patients by Nov. 21.

Separation of pediatric residents in the respiratory unit is ongoing and several patients have already been relocated. The department is working closely with the facility, federal and local health officials to conduct respiratory illness surveillance.

A Department of Health communicable disease service staff member is also on site at the facility and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is assisting with lab testing and expertise.  Federal and state inspection teams have also been on site on multiple occasions.

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Anthony Vecchione

Anthony Vecchione covers health care for NJBIZ. You can contact him at: Avecchione@njbiz.com.

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