Wanaque Center faces $600,000 federal fine

Federal authorities imposed a $600,000 fine on the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, the New Jersey care facility where a viral outbreak killed 11 children.

The penalty is a result of state and federal inspections at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation during the outbreak, but administrators strongly dispute the federal report on the outbreak and say they are appealing the fine.

Last September, 11 children died and 36 became ill during an adenovirus outbreak at the nursing home for severely disabled children in Passaic County.

Ordinarily, a common cold virus is not dangerous but this severe strain is a different case. Adenovirus is among a group of diseases in the so-called North Atlantic Oscillation indices.

“Unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus (#7) in this outbreak is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems,” the New Jersey Department of Health said in a statement during the outbreak. “The strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living arrangements and can be more severe.”

The New Jersey health commissioner took the highly unusual step of asking respiratory therapists, and the state’s Medical Reserve Corps, to volunteer to help at the long-term care center.

Inspectors cited conditions posing “immediate jeopardy” to children dependent on ventilators and other pediatric and elderly residents.

A letter from Lauren Reinertsen of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the convictions existed from Oct. 9 to Nov. 16.

Officials said the center is now in compliance, although it can’t admit pediatric ventilator patients pending state approval of an infection-control plan.

In October, the Health Department sent a inspectors to Wanaque and University Hospitals. At Wanaque, the team found that staff members were not properly washing their hands.

Because the virus is stubborn and resistant to antimicrobial chemicals, the best way to minimize its spread is through ‘mechanically’ removing it from the skin through the physical act of scrubbing.

The climate may play a role in its spread. Along with measles, viral meningitis and gastroenteritis, cases of adenovirus increased in Europe when temperatures were higher and it rained more, according to a 2013 study.

In October, the average temperature for the month in New Jersey was 57.4F and the average daily precipitation is 3.68 inches.

Last year’s temperatures and October rainfall were closely in line with these averages, but there was some kind of precipitation 32 days that month. Normally, it only rains about nine days in October in New Jersey.

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