Updated February 12, 2020
For the updates about the coronavirus from Rutgers University, please visit this webpage.
Also, please check the bottom of this post for updated messaging from Rutgers University.
Debra Chew, a former epidemic intelligence officer for the CDC, an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the medical director for infection prevention and control at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., discusses this emerging public health concern.
What is the Wuhan coronavirus?
This is a new virus that has not been previously identified in humans. It belongs to a large family of viruses called coronaviruses. These viruses can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold and more severe illnesses such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS] or the Middle East respiratory syndrome [MERS]. Currently, a lot is unknown about the Wuhan coronavirus, but the CDC and the World Health Organization are actively investigating to learn more about this virus, the way it spreads and its severity of illness.
Should Americans be concerned?
While any new virus is a serious public health concern, the immediate health risk to the American public is deemed low at this point. The virus is thought to have some limited person-to-person spread, and the CDC and WHO are conducting ongoing investigations to learn more about the degree of this spread.
What do we know about how the virus spreads?
While a lot about this new coronavirus is still unknown, it may have been transmitted to humans from an animal source, as many of the confirmed early cases were linked to a seafood/live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed. Some person-to-person spread has occurred by some who were in close contact to an infected patient and are being investigated.
What are the symptoms and health risks?
Common signs, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties are like those found with other respiratory illnesses. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Illness appears to be more severe in those who have underlying medical conditions, a weakened immune system, the elderly and the very young.
How is it treated?
As with many viruses, there is no specific treatment, but many of the symptoms can be treated and supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective. Since this is a new virus, there is no vaccine, and it can take of number of years for a new vaccine to be developed.
How can people protect themselves, especially if they are flying and will be in contact with people from all over the world?
Travelers should follow standard recommendations to reduce exposure to and spread of a range of infections. This includes washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve — not your hands — when coughing or sneezing and avoiding close contact, if possible, with anyone showing symptoms of a respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing.
In addition, below is a message from Vicente Gracias, MD, Senior Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Vice President Health Affairs; and Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH, Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at Rutgers University sent on February 12.
We are writing to update you on the University’s work to address the concerns posed by the 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus epidemic. The World Health Organization announced it had chosen a name for the disease that makes no reference to places, animals or people to avoid stigma: COVID-19.
Thankfully, there are still no cases of COVID-19 at Rutgers, or anywhere in New Jersey, but we have begun implementing response plans to assist our community members who have been affected by this health crisis. Rutgers Global has been critical to the outreach and coordination to our impacted students, faculty and staff. Together with departments and leaders across the University, we have proactively developed solutions and made accommodations to ease unforeseen burdens on our affected students, faculty and staff. Thank you all for the ongoing support of our student community.
Rutgers clinical providers and student health services have put measures in place to screen symptoms and establish safeguards in the event that a Rutgers community member is identified with the virus. The University has readied equipment and circulated guidance to appropriate personnel regarding handling of individuals and materials, and Rutgers Environmental Health and Safety has provided an information system that will enable easy health monitoring of individuals in need. The University’s Emergency Management teams have prepared facilities in the event that a Rutgers community member needs to be isolated. Hopefully this will not be necessary, but we are ready.
We have prepared for this situation as we do for other crises that present themselves to our University - we plan, monitor, evaluate, and adjust, while hoping that we will never have to implement any of this diligent work. Currently, this health crisis presents a low risk to our region, and while it is important to be mindful of the impact on portions of our population, it is also important to maintain perspective and not compromise our principles as we strive to pursue our studies, research, and service in effort to better the world.
In the past few days the CDC has announced a 13th case in the United States but states that this virus is NOT spreading in the community in the United States. The CDC also recently established new risk categories dependent on exposure. There are no deaths in the US, and no cases in New Jersey, in great contrast to the ongoing experience with the flu. To keep abreast of such updates, we ask you to bookmark our webpage (academichealth.rutgers.edu/coronavirus) and for up-to-date information about COVID-19, our preparations, and other general guidance. We will keep the community updated of new critical information as it becomes available.