- Nine children have died after an outbreak of adenovirus at a New Jersey health facility.
- Adenovirus symptoms can range from mild to severe.
- The children affected by the outbreak had “severely compromised immune systems,” health officials said, putting them at greater risk for serious illness.
- There’s no specific treatment for adenoviruses, but proper hand washing can help stop the spread.
Nine children have died after an outbreak of adenovirus sickened patients staying at a New Jersey medical facility, CNN reported Monday.
In a statement released Sunday, the New Jersey Department of Health announced there were 25 confirmed cases of adenovirus in “medically fragile” children receiving treatment at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. Eight of those cases were fatal. A ninth child died on Friday, the statement added, but the Department of Health is still waiting for laboratory confirmation of adenovirus in that individual.
“This is a tragic situation, and our thoughts are with the families who are grieving right now,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said in the statement.”We are working every day to ensure all infection control protocols are continuously followed and closely monitoring the situation at the facility.”
Here’s what to know about adenovirus, its symptoms, and the particular strain that’s behind the outbreak in New Jersey.
Adenoviruses can cause a range of symptoms
Adenoviruses are common and can cause a range of illness, including cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The illnesses caused by adenoviruses can range from mild all the way to severe. Those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk for more severe sickness.
The children affected by the outbreak in New Jersey are “medically fragile” and have “severely compromised immune systems,” according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
There’s no specific treatment for adenovirus, and since most cases are mild, infected people may only need care to address their symptoms, the CDC adds.
The strain in the New Jersey outbreak may be more severe
New Jersey health officials said that the outbreak at the Wanaque Center was caused by a particular strain called adenovirus 7.
“Unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus … has been particularly associated with disease in communal living arrangements and can be more severe,” a New Jersey Department of Health Statement said.
On Sunday, officials investigating the facility also “found minor handwashing deficiencies,” the statement added. The investigation is still ongoing.
In a statement provided to TIME on October 23, a spokesperson for the Wanaque Center said it “continues to fully cooperate with these agencies and has sought out their medical guidance with respect to the virus. As a result, facility staff have diligently implemented all available infection control and prevention measures in order to protect the health and safety of the Wanaque Center’s residents.”
The facility will not admit any new residents for the duration of the outbreak, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
Good hand washing can help stop the spread
Adenoviruses are most commonly spread by close personal contact like shaking hands; coughing or sneezing; and touching a surface that has adenoviruses on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, according to the CDC.
There is a vaccine to protect against adenovirus strains four and seven, but it’s currently only available for members of the US military. In the past, these two strains have caused severe outbreaks of illness among military recruits.
You can protect yourself against adenoviruses (and other infections) buy not touching your eyes, mouth, or nose with unwashed hands; avoiding contact with sick people; and washing your hands often with soap and water, according to the CDC.
If you get sick, you can help protect others by staying home when possible, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing, avoiding sharing cups and utensils with others, and washing your hands. Just make sure that your handwashing technique is correct for the best protection.
This post has been updated to reflect new information released by the New Jersey Department of Health.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.