WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield Regional Health Department — which provides public health and environmental services to Westfield, Summit, Chatham Borough, Fanwood, Garwood, Mountainside, New Providence and Roselle Park — recently circulated an email informing residents about the coronavirus. While “coronavirus” is a general term referring to a certain type of respiratory illnesses, a new version had already killed 304 people in China and affected more than 14,300 globally as of last Sunday, according to CNN.
According to the letter, while “the CDC considers this to be a serious public health concern, based on current information, the immediate health risk from the 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time.”
The letter describes coronavirus as “a type of common virus that can infect your respiratory tract and can spread much like cold viruses.” It tends to circulate in the fall and winter, and “almost everyone gets a coronavirus infection at least once in their lifetime, most likely as a young child.”
A novel type of coronavirus, like the one that emerged in Wuhan, can cause an outbreak of respiratory illness, because “people have not developed resistance to it.”
According to the letter, the Westfield Regional Health Department is working with the New Jersey Department of Health “to monitor the situation closely and is proactively preparing guidance documents for health care professionals to be able to effectively respond to any cases that may be identified in the state.”
The department is also working with state agencies “to establish contacts should ill travelers be identified; is creating guidance documents for investigating and managing suspect cases and their contacts; and is evaluating and modifying current respiratory surveillance to assist in the detection of suspect cases.”
The health department recommends the following public health guidelines to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and influenza more generally:
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue (then properly dispose of the tissue) or sleeve, not your hands.
• Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers or touching pets or commonly used surfaces. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home if sick and avoid sick people.
• Review and follow CDC travel advisories — https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/novel-coronavirus-china — when planning travel. If you become ill after returning home to the United States, call your health care provider before going to a doctor’s office or emergency department of a hospital. They may want to place a mask on you before you enter the building to protect other people.
For more information, call the Westfield Regional Health Department at 908-789-4070.