Six young patients died and 12 others became sick following an outbreak of adenovirus at a rehabilitation center in Haskell, New Jersey, the state's Health Department said on Tuesday.
State health officials continue to investigate the outbreak, but initial investigations turned up "minor handwashing deficiencies" at Wanaque.
The facility has been instructed to not admit any new patients until the outbreak ends and they are in full compliance.
The outbreak occurred at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, in northern New Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement that he was "heartbroken" about the deaths and that he had been briefed by the health commissioner, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, who told him that the department is on site and trying to prevent the virus from spreading further.
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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 unsafe to people with already compromised immune systems.
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.
Adenovirus is spread from one infected person to another through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; coughing or sneezing; or touching a contaminated object or surface, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
The center helps educate "medically fragile children", according to its website.
What's known about Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation?
Local news site NewJersey.com reported that a letter had been sent to parents of patients about an outbreak on 18 Oct, but officials did not confirm any details about the virus until Tuesday.