Child death toll hits 7 in viral outbreak at rehab center

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Another young person has died in a viral outbreak at a pediatric rehabilitation center this month, bringing the death toll to seven, officials said Wednesday as they disclosed the first symptoms of the illness showed up a month ago. But the strain found in the rehab center outbreak, adenovirus 7, is among the more potent types and can sometimes cause more serious respiratory illness, particularly in people with weak immune systems or who have lung conditions.

"We're taking this outbreak very, very seriously", New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The 18 patients at the facility, located about 32 miles (50 km) northwest of NY, range in age from a toddler through young adulthood, with most under 18 years old, health department spokeswoman Nicole Kirgan said in an email on Tuesday.

The Wanaque Center said its pediatrics center serves newborns to 22-year-olds who are "medically fragile" and provides an individualized program for each child. "It is unconscionable that families are still not receiving information or phone calls back regarding their children's health", the assemblywoman said. The 2001 paper said civilian outbreaks of the type 7 infection had not been frequently reported because of a lack of lab resources, and that the full impact on chronic-care facilities and hospitals is likely underestimated.

Paula Costigan, whose 14-year-old son was sickened in the outbreak, told NJ.com that she didn't know about the illness until one week later.

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The president of a nurses union said Wednesday that nurses have complained about staffing shortages at the facility, which she said may lead to poor infection control practices that could put patient safety at risk. But the state has barred the center from taking new patients until the outbreak ends.

The center referred questions to a spokesman, who said late Wednesday that he was preparing a statement.

The department was not releasing exact ages for privacy reasons, Kirgan said.

In addition the seven who have died, eleven other children are confirmed to have the infection.

Health officials say that a lot of them previously had underlying health conditions and suppressed immunities.

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