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Somerset County officials provide update on coronavirus

The ongoing international and national concern for the coronavirus that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,500 people worldwide has Somerset County officials raising awareness for residents.

County officials released a statement that as of Feb. 10, no coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases have been reported in the county or state. To date, officials reported a total of 15 cases have been reported in the United States, but no fatalities.

State department of health officials reported that most early cases of this illness were linked to a large seafood and animal market suggesting possible animal-to-person spread of the virus.

“The market closed on Jan. 2 as part of the investigation and response to this outbreak. Once a person is infected, the virus causes respiratory illness. Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern,” state officials said. “The risk from these outbreaks depends on the characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of the resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus.”

In response to the ongoing updates and information from county and state officials, Freeholder Brian G. Gallagher, public health and safety liaison, released a statement to stymie concerns among locals as well as awareness for potential symptoms.

“While the immediate risk to the general public is believed to be low, our county health department is diligently working with public health partners to monitor symptoms in people who have traveled to China and those who have had close contact with someone who has the virus,” Gallagher said.

Over the past few weeks, officials said the health department has taken a number of steps to protect the public, which included contacting healthcare providers throughout the county to provide regular updates; opening a dedicated health line for healthcare providers, first responders and school administrators; providing resources, education and regular updates to public health partners; reaching out to schools with information on current disease guidelines, hand hygiene and healthy habits; and establishing a novel coronavirus webpage on the county’s website. The webpage can be found at http://bit.ly/SCDOHcorona.

“The county health department’s priority is to protect and inform the public by monitoring and identifying all communicable disease in the community and by providing essential public health information to residents,” officials said.

Officials said symptoms of coronavirus appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

“For people who have traveled to China or have had close contact with someone infected with this new coronavirus and develop symptoms, contact your healthcare provider, and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure to a 2019-nCoV patient,” officials said.

According to officials, there are also precautions residents can take on a day-to-day basis that can lower the potential risk of contracting the virus and prevent the spread of it as well as other diseases such as:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.
  • Stay home when sick.

The New Jersey Department of Health is also providing information to residents, and has set up a 24/7 public hotline with the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System at 1-800-222-1222.

For the most up-to-date and credible information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov, the New Jersey Department of Health at www.nj.gov/health, and the Somerset County Department of Health at www.co.somerset.nj.us/health.

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