Coronavirus fears: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy details state's preparations

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Fears of the coronavirus that has killed at least 132 people and sickened nearly 6,000 in China continue to grow in the United States after several confirmed cases and dozens more under investigation.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Wednesday the state's preparedness activities related to the outbreak of novel coronavirus, including a 24-hour hotline.

Murphy said his administration is taking a comprehensive approach to respond to the virus, 2019-nCoV, by ensuring public health and health care system preparedness. At this time, New Jersey has no confirmed cases of coronavirus or reports under investigation.

"As governor, I am above all charged with protecting the health and safety of our residents," Murphy said. "New Jersey is an international crossroads, home to global businesses and research and educational institutions, and with proximity to numerous international airports and other points of entry. Together, we are collaborating with our federal partners, state authorities, and local health officials to ensure that we have strong preparedness protocols in place to protect all New Jerseyans."

As part of the preparedness activities, the administration has launched a website with resources regarding the virus, including travel updates and advisories and guidance sent to health care providers, local health departments, infection preventionists and other health partners.

The hotline, 1-800-222-1222, has been set up for the public to ask questions about 2019-nCoV. It is operated by the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, also known as the New Jersey Poison Center. The free hotline is staffed with trained health care professionals and can accommodate callers in multiple languages.

NJ health officials have shared with hospitals across the state specific guidance for evaluating reports of patients exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, including the taking of a full travel and potential-exposure history, which is a critical metric when determining whether a patient meets specific criteria for Center for Disease Control (CDC) testing.

New Jersey continues to work closely with the CDC and local health partners to monitor the situation and will provide updates accordingly.

"Although this novel virus in understandably a cause for concern, it is important for New Jersey residents to know that the risk to the general public remains low," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. "If you haven't traveled and are feeling ill, your symptoms may be related to flu or other respiratory viruses. We are in the height of respiratory virus season, so individuals should practice good health habits such as washing hands often and staying home when you are sick. The Department is closely monitoring this rapidly evolving situation and working with healthcare and public health partners to prepare for potential novel coronavirus cases."

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The CDC recommends people avoid non-essential travel to Wuhan. For travel deemed essential, the Health Department has shared the following CDC recommendations with healthcare providers regarding travelers to Wuhan:
--Avoid contact with sick people
--Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat);
--Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
--Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
--Older travelers and those with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel to Wuhan with their healthcare provider.

For those who recently traveled to Wuhan and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, CDC recommends:
--Seek medical care right away. Before going to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about recent travel and symptoms.
--Avoid contact with others.
--Not travel while sick.
--Cover mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not hands) when coughing or sneezing.
--Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

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