Coronavirus hotline in NJ: To spread facts, fight rumors
Test results have come back negative for a Garden State resident suspected of having the coronavirus, but with mounting fears about the possible spread of the virus, the Health Department has launched a hotline people can call with questions about the illness.
The hotline number: is 1-800-222-1222.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Ted Louie of the Medical Society of New Jersey said this is a good idea.
“We want to do things ahead of time and anticipate possible issues rather than react to them after the fact," Louie said.
He said coronavirus appears to be a potentially serious threat so “we should all be careful and concerned but not to the point of hysteria. It goes along with many of these viruses that come out.”
Louie said still don’t know a lot about coronavirus, but “it causes a similar disease to influenza. The patients in China have had fever, cough and respiratory failure. Influenza can cause similar illness.”
He said it appears many people who get coronavirus, similar to influenza, do recover, but “you still have to be careful about this virus as well as all other viruses, flu included.”
“In the grand scheme of things at this point there are few cases of coronavirus," Louie said. "We do have to be careful about watching for it, however there’s many more potential cases of influenza.”
He stressed if you are sick, if you have a fever and a cough, stay home from work. If someone else in your household is ill, practice good hygiene, including “hand washing, perhaps wearing masks, and keeping people in different rooms perhaps if they’re coughing and having fevers.”
Dr. Louie said wearing a mask in front of your nose and mouth makes sense for people who have weak immune systems and get sick easily. He said it won't hurt for others to wear masks as well.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a statement the coronavirus hotline “provides factual information to alleviate fear and dispel rumors.”
The commissioner sent a letter to hospital CEOs last Friday detailing specific guidance to healthcare professionals on how to evaluate reports of patients with possible exposure to the coronavirus, including taking a careful travel and exposure history.
A Health Department news release said 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 department reminds individuals with recent travel to Wuhan, China or close contact with someone who has and are experiencing symptoms, to call their health care provider in advance before arriving to the office so they can make accommodations in advance,” Persichilli said.
The hotline is being operated by the New Jersey Poison Center, which has run other call centers for the Health Department in the past.
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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com