The Chatter

Baltimore Pediatric Doctors Monitor Deadly Virus Outbreak

Local hospitals react after 10 children were killed by an adenovirus outbreak in New Jersey.

By Ken Iglehart | November 7, 2018, 11:37 am

-Shutterstock
The Chatter

Baltimore Pediatric Doctors Monitor Deadly Virus Outbreak

Local hospitals react after 10 children were killed by an adenovirus outbreak in New Jersey.

By Ken Iglehart | November 7, 2018, 11:37 am

-Shutterstock

Strains of a rare virus that has been blamed so far for killing 10 children and sickening dozens of others in New Jersey pediatric-care facilities have Baltimore doctors on alert for an outbreak here.

According to New Jersey state health authorities, there have been 27 cases of the adenovirus infection at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation center in Haskell, New Jersey, where the affected children had severely compromised immune systems. One death was a young adult.

The state also confirmed to the Associated Press four adenovirus cases among pediatric patients at New Jersey’s Voorhees Pediatric Facility, just across the river from Philadelphia, but preliminary tests suggest it’s a different strain of the virus.

The department said it’s working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor the illness and announced earlier this week that infection control teams were being sent to New Jersey’s four long-term pediatric centers to help with training.

At Baltimore hospitals, doctors are watching carefully for the spread of the virus, says pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. James Campbell, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“We have been following the events of this institutional adenovirus outbreak and our hearts go out to the patients, families, and staff [in New Jersey],” says Campbell. “Adenoviruses are a common cause of respiratory diseases and may also cause gastrointestinal illness. The illnesses they cause range from very mild to life-threatening. More common manifestations are things like the common cold, sore throat with pink eye, and ear infections. In some people, they can cause pneumonia, heart infections, or other serious diseases.”

Particularly at risk are those with compromised health, he says. “These more serious problems tend to occur in people with underlying medical problems or problems with fighting off infections. Institutional epidemics of pneumonia can occur in dormitories, military barracks, and other places, like chronic-care facilities.”

Campbell says adenoviruses are spread by “respiratory droplets,” just like other viruses that cause colds and pneumonias. “That means that you get them when people sneeze or cough near you or you shake hands or touch surfaces where others were sneezing or coughing,” he says. “The best way to reduce your risk of infection is by hand washing.”

At Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, infection prevention coordinator and R.N. Erica Jones echoed the increased danger such viruses pose to the very young, medically fragile, or hospitalized children.

Jones says that, besides hand washing (use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available), there are other steps people can take to avoid spreading viruses. “Avoid close contact with other people, especially infants or children who may be immune-compromised, stay home from work and school when you are sick to help prevent spreading illness, and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing,” she says.

As someone who deals with very sick kids every day, Jones tries to empower parents to speak up for the safety of their children.

“Parents often tell me they are uncomfortable speaking up when strangers approach their infant or child wanting to touch their hands or belongings,” she says. “A well-intended gesture can prove harmful if germs are passed along. I also let parents know that when their child goes home, it is okay to remind family members and friends not to visit when sick and to wash their hands.”

Hospitals take other steps, too, to avoid spreading illnesses, says Dr. Aaron Milstone, a Johns Hopkins Hospital epidemiologist and associate professor of pediatrics at Hopkins School of Medicine. “In a health-care setting, we also require our staff to wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves and gowns, when treating patients with contagious infectious diseases,” he says.

And they’re always on the lookout for such viruses: “Adenoviruses are common and can be detected with available tests, but at Johns Hopkins’ five hospitals in Maryland and Washington, D.C., we are seeing a low and typical number of cases.”




Meet The Author

Ken Iglehart is the managing editor of special editions, covering health, home, and real estate for Baltimore magazine. He is also the director of Baltimore Creative Studio, which creates custom publications and branding for other businesses.



You May Also Like


Charmed Life

Simple Desk Stretches to Power Through the Workday

Ease pain and boost energy without leaving your office.

Charmed Life

Style File: Earth Elements Soapworks

Get to know Kellie Martin of this eco-conscious beauty brand.

In Good Taste

The First Maryland Vegan Restaurant Week Kicks Off

Local vegan advocates promote healthy lifestyle and inclusive community.


Health & Wellness

Lust for Life

At 97, pioneering sex therapist Lois Feinblatt shares what she has learned about love—and life.

The Chatter

When Having Power of Attorney Has You Feeling Powerless

In making life and death decisions for my mother, the responsibility is paralyzing.

Arts & Culture

Looking for Love

After losing his daughter to an overdose, artist Peter Bruun is buoyed by ink, watercolors, and love.

Doctor Finder

Connect With Us

Most Read


Ronald McDonald House Charities Maryland Prepares to Open in Jonestown: We chat with president and CEO Sandy Pagnotti about the new Baltimore facility.

Fancy Clancy Pilsner to Debut at Sliders on Opening Day: The beloved beer vendor finally gets a brew to call his own.

Deyane Moses’ Blackives Revises MICA’s Racist History: New exhibit and online database inspires institutional change at the art school.

March Madness Food and Drink Specials That Are Slam Dunks: Fill out your bracket and head to these local watering holes for NCAA games.

Catherine Pugh Resigns From UMMS Board Amid $500,000 Book Deal Controversy: Baltimore mayor earned $100,000 in profits in burgeoning ethics scandal.