N.J. sends in expert health team after 9 children die at facility

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By Maggie Fox

A team of infection control experts will head to a New Jersey rehabilitation facility where nine children have died from a virus, and will visit other, similar facilities, the state health department said Monday.

They experts will also visit a public hospital where four premature babies caught a different infection. One of the babies has died.

They will reinforce basic infection control procedures. It’s not necessarily an easy task, said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the state’s health commissioner.

“It really requires meticulous attention to detail and it requires a culture of zero harm,” Elnahal told NBC News.

“What that means is not failing to follow every single step that you should take to minimize infection. This isn’t rocket science but it can be hard to follow.”

The state health department confirmed that nine children at the Wanaque Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Haskell died from infections caused by adenovirus – a virus that normally causes common cold symptoms but which can be deadly in fragile patients.

“A total of 25 pediatric cases have been associated with this outbreak. A staff member at the facility — who has since recovered — also became ill as part of the outbreak,” the health department said in a statement.

The children at the facility have developmental disorders or immune deficiencies that put them at special risk. Several were on ventilators and had tracheostomies – openings in the throat that allow the installation of breathing equipment. Such patients have a high risk of infection.

Staff who treat such patients should be following precise procedures to protect their vulnerable charges, the health department said.

“The team will visit University Hospital, Wanaque Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Haskell, Voorhees Pediatric Facility in Voorhees, and Children’s Specialized Hospital in Toms River and Mountainside,” the department said.