6 children dead from adenovirus at care facility in New Jersey

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A viral outbreak at a New Jersey long-term medical care centre has killed six children and left a dozen more infected.

The New Jersey Department of Health said it is investigating an outbreak of adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, New Jersey.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, who is not involved in the outbreak investigation, agreed that the deaths in this outbreak may be partially explained by the fact that the children had underlying medical conditions that predisposed them to severe infection. The centre is now closed to new patients. But officials say this outbreak is particularly severe because it's affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems.

Wanaque Administrator Rowena Bautista said in a statement provided to TIME that the facility is cooperating with local and national health authorities to stem the spread of disease. The centre did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

The department said it was notified of respiratory illness at the Wannaque Center on October 9, and has been in close communication with officials there since. On Sunday, they said they found "minor hand washing deficiencies".

It is still unclear how and when exactly the outbreak began.

The facility has been told not to admit any new patients until the outbreak ends.

An inspection team from the state health department responded to the facility on Sunday and another team from the agency returned to the center on Tuesday.

Children in the centre's paediatric ward are seriously ill - many are disabled, in comas, or can not walk or speak, the North Jersey Record reported.

Adenoviruses are the cause of everyday infections like the common cold, bronchitis, pink eye and respiratory tract infections, but the highly contagious viruses can be much more risky to people with already compromised immune systems. Still, people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of developing severe illness from adenovirus, according to the CDC.

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