NJ Preparing for Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
Trenton, NJ: NJ Dept of Health reports 1.24.2020.
With two cases of novel coronavirus (nCoV) now identified in the United States, New Jersey is preparing to respond to potential cases by sharing state Department of Health and federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance with hospital CEOs and local health partners and establishing a central webpage of resources.
New Jersey has no confirmed case reports of nCoV at this time and no reports under investigation.
“Although this novel virus in understandably a cause for concern, it is important for New Jersey residents to know that the risk to the public remains low,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “The New Jersey Department of Health works with hospitals and local health departments throughout respiratory virus and flu season on hundreds of disease outbreaks each year and we are prepared —along with our partners — to respond to potential novel coronavirus cases.”
Commissioner Persichilli points out that New Jersey is currently at the height of respiratory virus season.
“While nCoV is very concerning, hospital Emergency Departments and urgent care centers need to consider other more common diagnoses,” she said. “Health care facilities need to be mindful of any potentially communicable disease, whether nCoV, imported MERS-CoV, seasonal respiratory viruses, measles, and others, and review their policies and protocols related to infection control.”
The outbreak emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and now globally includes more than 500 cases and 17 deaths. Two U.S. cases have been confirmed in Chicago and Washington state.
Today, Commissioner Persichilli sent a letter to hospital CEOs detailing specific guidance to healthcare professionals on how to evaluate reports of patients with possible nCoV illness, such as taking a careful travel and exposure history to determine if they meet specific CDC testing criteria. The letter also points out that the Department has a central nCoV webpage that includes CDC updates, travel advisories and guidance sent to health care providers, local health departments, infection preventionists and other health partners.
Health care facilities should work with their local health department to report potential cases.
“If you have had recent travel to Wuhan, China or close contact with someone who has and are experiencing symptoms, call your health care provider before arriving to the office so they can make accommodations in advance,” Commissioner Persichilli said.
Patients with confirmed nCoV infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. CDC believes at this time that symptoms of nCoV may appear in as few as two days or as long as two weeks after exposure.
At this time, only the CDC laboratories in Atlanta have the capabilities to test for nCoV, though it is expected that state public health laboratories will be able to test soon.
“The New Jersey Public Health and Environmental Laboratories in West Trenton is ready when a diagnostic test becomes available,” said Christopher Neuwirth, Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Public Health Infrastructure, Laboratories and Emergency Preparedness (PHILEP).
The Department has also been in contact with Newark Liberty International Airport’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in advance of airport screening.
The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (also known as the NJ Poison Control Center) serves as a 24/7 information resource for the public and can be reached at 800-222-1222.
New Jersey continues to work closely with the CDC and local health partners to monitor the situation and will provide updates accordingly.