They should have told us about viral outbreak at N.J. facility sooner, mom says in lawsuit

Editor’s note: Do you have a family member on the pediatric unit at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, or a child who has been affected by the viral outbreak there? NJ.com would like to hear from you. You may reach us at (732) 902-4559, or write to Susan Livio at slivio@njadvancemedia.com, Spencer Kent at skent@njadvancemedia.com, or Ted Sherman at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com


A lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation alleges the facility did not immediately alert parents about last month’s viral outbreak at the facility that infected her son and claimed the lives of 10 children.

The lawsuit, filed in Passaic County Superior Court, alleges that the facility didn’t tell Paula Costigan for more than a week that her son was among those infected in the outbreak, and didn’t transfer him to a hospital until a week after developing symptoms.

Costigan’s 14-year old son was hospitalized Oct. 18 in critical condition and remains in the intensive care unit at Hackensack University Medical Center.

If Costigan had known about the outbreak after the first children were diagnosed,  she could have pushed the facility to transfer her son to an acute care facility sooner, according to her attorney, Paul da Costa, of Roseland.

Costigan’s son developed a high fever and “serious respiratory complications” on Oct. 11 — two days after the facility alerted the state of the adenovirus outbreak. Still, Costigan alleges she was not told about the outbreak until Oct. 22.

Costigan’s son was transferred to the hospital on Oct. 18 in critical and life-threatening condition, the suit alleges. However, when she visited him, she still was unaware of the outbreak.

On Oct. 22, she received a letter, dated Oct. 18, informing her of the outbreak.

“Had she been timely and properly informed that there was an (outbreak) in the pediatric unit, she would have been given the opportunity and chance to have him transferred out to an acute care facility,” da Costa said.

He added, “They knew certainly by the end of September — certainly by Oct. 1. And instead of disclosing to parents … they crossed their fingers and hoped for the best,” he said.

There are 30 people — 29 children and one adult who works at the facility — who have been sickened in the outbreak between Sept. 26 and Oct. 29.

Costigan’s son entered the Wanaque Center in March 2015, receiving long-term care for a severe condition that requires a tracheostomy. The children who live at Wanaque all have severely compromised immune systems.

The suit also points to numerous unsanitary conditions and poor infection control practices that it claims contributed to the outbreak.

state inspection on Oct. 21 found more than a dozen deficiencies in hand-washing and infection control.

The suit alleges the infections of Costigan’s son and other patients were “a result of the deviations” from accepted standards and protocols.

Adenovirus is a respiratory illness that typically causes flu- or cold-like symptoms but can be far more harmful to those who are medically fragile.

The suit is seeking damages against the defendants and cost of the suit.

A spokesman for Wanaque Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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