(Gloucester Township, NJ) – The Camden County Department of Health is continuing to closely monitor reports and guidance regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New Jersey Department of Health. While there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Jersey, public health officials are urging members of the public to begin preparing for the possibility of a broader outbreak in the United States.
“We are working closely with our partners at the state and federal levels to monitor any new developments, and so that we may closely monitor any individuals living in Camden County who are at risk of having contracted the illness,” said Camden County Health Officer Dr. Paschal Nwako. “It bears repeating, there are currently no known cases of coronavirus in New Jersey and the risk to our residents is currently low. Still, rest assured that our team is taking the necessary steps to prepare for the event that a broader outbreak occurs.”
Nwako and other public health officials are continuing to urge Camden County residents that the best way to protect yourself from contracting or spreading viruses is to demonstrate good, common hygiene practices, including:
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
- Washing your hands properly and often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible
- Stay home from work or school when you are sick
Officials are also prompting members of the public to begin to develop contingency plans for work, school, and home in the event that an outbreak occurs in our community. While the risk of an outbreak in New Jersey remains low, now is the time for families, educators, and employers to begin preparing for the possibility of an interruption to everyday life in the event of an outbreak.
Some recommended steps include:
- Speaking with your employer about options to work from home or telecommute to work in the event of an outbreak.
- Maintaining a three-month supply of medication for individuals who suffer from chronic illness.
- Adding nonperishable items to your pantry, including go-to sickbed foods such as chicken broth, crackers, hydrating drinks, etc…(there is no need to stockpile food or water, however).
The Camden County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is responsible for maintaining and enforcing the New Jersey state disaster laws, and focuses on coordinating activities to mitigate, prepare for, and respond to, disaster situations. The Office is currently working to prepare plans and procedures for emergency responders who may treat or transport persons who have contracted the coronavirus.
The Department of Health is continuing to monitor the health of individuals who have traveled from or through regions where known outbreaks have occurred.
Other departments and agencies within Camden County are proactively updating their continuity of operations and continuity of government plans, ensuring that critical government services and functions will remain accessible in the event that employees cannot continue to work in their regular facilities.
“Residents should know that the government of Camden County is ready in the event of any emergency, including a potential viral outbreak,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. “Plans are in place to ensure that we are always prepared to respond to the needs of our citizens whether in the event of a natural disaster, severe storms, or a public health crisis.”
About COVID-19/What to Do
The COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus which is believed to have first emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illness such as the common cold, or more severe illness such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
On Feb. 27, the CDC confirmed the first known case of the coronavirus in the United States not to result from travel to an affected region or contact with another person already known to have contracted the infection. As of Feb. 26, there were 14 known cases of coronavirus inside the United States, 12 of which were travel-related, and two of which occurred via person-to-person spread. Additionally, 45 cases among persons repatriated to the United States have been confirmed, the vast majority of which are individuals who contracted the virus aboard the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. Three others were repatriated from Wuhan, China.
According to the CDC, current understanding about how the coronavirus spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. The virus is though to spread mainly from person-to-person, but it may be possible that a person can contract the illness by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It is important to reiterate that at this time, the CDC maintains that for the general American public, the immediate health risk from coronavirus is considered low.
The CDC has issued several travel alerts and warnings for locations where outbreaks have occurred. The CDC recommended that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to both China and South Korea. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions have also been altered to consider postponing nonessential travel to Iran, Italy, and Japan.
If you are experiencing symptoms following possible exposure to COVID-19, seek medical care as soon as possible. Remember to call ahead and tell the healthcare provider’s office about your recent travel, symptoms, and concern. Please also avoid contact with others and do not travel.
Anyone with questions about the novel coronavirus, symptoms, or their risk of exposure, can call the free, 24-hour public hotline at 1-800-222-1222 where trained professionals are standing by to answer your questions.
“The risk posed by the coronavirus in our community remains low, but now is the time for residents to begin mentally preparing themselves for the what an outbreak might look like and how the response may affect their daily life,” said Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services. “The most important thing is to practice good hygiene and to develop a plan so that you are prepared in the event of the virus spreading.”
In contrast to the coronavirus, flu activity remains high in all New Jersey counties. Camden County residents can still receive the influenza vaccination at Camden County’s Regional Health Centers in Bellmawr and Camden City.
To schedule an appointment or to inquire regarding walk-in hours, please contact the appropriate center:
Bellmawr Regional Health Center
35 E. Browning Road
Bellmawr, NJ 08031
Board of Social Services Building
600 Market Street, Basement B-55
Camden, NJ 08102
For additional information about where and how to receive the flu vaccine residents can contact the county Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-999-9045, or visit www.camdencounty.com, or contact their primary physician.