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Kirgan added: 'The combination of a worse strain of adenovirus together with a fragile population has led to a more severe outbreak'.

The facility houses an adult nursing home, a rehabilitation center and a pediatrics unit.

Six children have died and another 12 have fallen ill after a "severe outbreak" of a potentially life-threatening virus at a New Jersey health facility.

The state Department of Health on Tuesday confirmed the 18 cases of adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell in Passaic County.

Adenovirus is a family of viruses that typically impact young children and usually cause only mild illness, according to the Health Department.

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.

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The various strains of adenovirus can cause a variety of illnesses, ranging from common colds to neurologic conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of these 18 cases, there have unfortunately been six deaths of pediatric residents, according to WABC.

An investigation into the outbreak is underway.

Wanaque Administrator Rowena Bautista said in a statement provided to TIME that the facility is cooperating with local and national health authorities to stem the spread of disease.

Inspectors from the Department of Health have visited the center and are providing infection control and cleaning procedures.

An inspection team on Sunday found minor hand-washing deficiencies, the department said. They also note this strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living facilities.