The New Jersey Department of Health has updated 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) guidance for the management of health care workers, employees and K-12 and university students who have traveled to China in the past 14 days.
The guidance — shared by the Department with hospitals, county and local health departments, other health partners and with Murphy Administration Cabinet officials — outlines three forms of monitoring based on individuals’ potential public health risk. The guidance is posted on the Department’s novel coronavirus webpage, available at nj.gov/health/coronavirus
Employees and students would be considered at high risk if they traveled to Wuhan/Hubei Province in the past two weeks and have been in close contact (6 feet or within the room or care area of an individual with 2019-nCoV for a prolonged period of time) with an individual confirmed with the virus, while the person was symptomatic or visiting, living with or caring for someone confirmed with 2019-nCoV.
The Department recommends that these individuals voluntarily self-quarantine for two weeks from their last exposure and should contact their university/health center, employer or local health department to arrange for active monitoring during this time.
Passive monitoring would be recommended for moderate risk travelers who may have had other contact with 2019-nCoV while traveling such as through an unprotected laboratory exposure.
Students or employees at low risk include those who have traveled to China in the past two weeks but had no contact with a person confirmed with the virus or had transient contact with a suspect case in a public setting. They would not be required to take any precautionary actions, but voluntarily self-quarantine and passive self-monitoring for two weeks to monitor for any signs or symptoms is recommended. Schools and employers may enact stricter policies regarding limitation of work duties or participating in school activities.
Active monitoring means that an employer or a public health agency will check in daily to assess for symptoms and fever. Check-ins are through daily phone calls, interactive voice response, internet reporting, or via Skype or other video conferencing, with possible follow-up home visits as needed. Passive monitoring means the person being monitored assesses themselves for fever and symptoms daily with a check-in at the beginning and end of the monitoring period with their employer or public health agency. Any individuals who develop symptoms while on passive or active monitoring should notify public health immediately if symptoms occur.
Anyone who returned from China more than two weeks ago would be considered no risk.
“Outbreaks like this – when a new virus is emerging to infect people – are always concerning,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli. “The situation poses a serious public health threat, but the risk to New Jersey residents remains low and our level of preparedness is high.”
New Jersey has no confirmed cases of this new virus which originated in Wuhan, China in December, and the state has no Persons Under Investigation (PUI) at this time.
“Risk depends on exposure. People exposed to ill persons are at greater risk of infection, for example, healthcare workers and family members caring for anyone confirmed with 2019-CoV,” Commissioner Persichilli said. “If you haven’t traveled and are feeling ill, your symptoms may be related to flu or other respiratory viruses.”
It is the height of respiratory virus season.
“Everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat by taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs,” Commissioner Persichilli said. “Wash hands frequently and stay home when you are sick.”
“Our team is working diligently with health care providers who are evaluating these patients who may develop symptoms to determine if they meet the criteria that would warrant additional action and testing at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),” the Commissioner said.
At this time, only the CDC laboratories in Atlanta have the capabilities to test for 2019-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).
A close contact is within 6 feet, or within the room or area of an individual confirmed with the virus for a prolonged period without wearing personal protective equipment. Close contact can include caring for, living with, visiting or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with an individual confirmed with 2019-nCoV, or being coughed on by an individual confirmed with 2019-nCoV.
There are currently 17,400 confirmed cases globally and more than 300 deaths. About 150 cases have been confirmed across 25 other countries. There are 11 confirmed cases in the U.S.: Washington, Arizona, Massachusetts, Illinois (2) and California (6).
A free, 24/7 hotline is being operated by the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, also known as the New Jersey Poison Center. The hotline, staffed with trained healthcare professionals, is available at 1-800-222-1222.