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Response plans required after fatal outbreak under NJ law

August 15, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed into law a measure requiring certain long-term care facilities to submit outbreak response plans to the state.

The new law came in response to the deaths of 11 children last year at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.

One staff member and 36 residents, who ranged from toddlers to teens, were diagnosed with a severe strain of adenovirus in the outbreak at the facility in Haskell, which offers care to adults and children. Eleven children died.

“We have not forgotten about the eleven children who were taken from us far too soon,” Murphy said in a statement.

The law requires centers with ventilator-dependent residents to submit plans to the Health Department within six months. It also requires other long-term care facilities to develop response plans, though only centers like Wanaque have to turn them over to the state Health Department.

The plans are to include protocols for isolating infected and at-risk patients as well as policies for notifying family and staff.

The new law came after a June Health Department report that called for such legislation. The department already had guidelines for the control of respiratory viral outbreaks but is now requiring them under the measure.

In March, the federal government fined the Wanaque center $600,000 over what it said were lapses, including insufficient hand washing. The center disputed those findings and has said it planned an appeal.

Adenovirus typically causes a mild cold or flu symptoms and usually poses little risk for healthy people.

The strain found in the rehab center — type 7 — is among the more potent types and sometimes causes more serious respiratory illness. The children at the facility all had serious underlying health conditions, and many were on ventilators.

The first symptoms showed up Sept. 26, and the state was notified of an outbreak Oct. 9, officials said.

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