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NORTHFIELD – Following the first several Corona virus-related deaths in the U.S., the Atlantic County Division of Public Health wants to reassure residents that it continues to closely monitor the 2019 novel coronavirus, named COVID-19.

The Division of Public Health is in regular communication with the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the New Jersey Department of Health. As information becomes available, the Division of Public Health is sharing it with public health providers, school administrators, first responders, community leaders and public officials. Atlantic County health educators are also providing presentations on respiratory illnesses upon request.

“There are more than 100 confirmed cases of the virus in 15 states, but none in New Jersey at this time,” Atlantic County Public Health Officer Patricia Diamond said in a release. “But because this is such a new virus, it remains a rapidly evolving situation with much to learn and manage.”

A patient being treated at Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel over the weekend tested negative for the coronavirus.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that health experts believe is spread much like other respiratory viruses such as the cold or flu virus. Symptoms in those who became ill were mostly fever, cough and breathing difficulty. There is currently no vaccine or anti-viral response for COVID-19 and health experts are still working to better understand how it spreads, the severity of associated illness and other crucial characteristics, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The outbreak first emerged in Wuhan, China and has been declared an international global health emergency by the World Health Organization, with more than 90,000 people in 60 countries having been sickened. The immediate health risk in the U.S. remains low, according to the CDC.  but more cases are expected to be reported.

Atlantic County health officials encourage everyone to remain vigilant by taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of illness:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands.
  • Stay home if you are sick and avoid sick people.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect commonly touched areas (counters, door knobs, etc.)
  • Review and follow travel advisories from the Centers for Disease Control when planning travel. If you become ill with respiratory symptoms 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.
  • Get a flu shot – it’s not too late to be protected. Walk-in clinics are provided 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Fridayat the Stillwater building, 201 S. Shore Rd., Northfield, and every Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 12 noon, at 310 Bellevue Ave., Hammonton.

Diamond noted that anyone with a fever, cough or difficulty breathing who has traveled to China or from other affected areas or has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 within 14 days prior to feeling sick, should seek immediate medical attention. It is recommended that you call ahead before going to a doctor or emergency room to advise them of your symptoms and recent travel.

For up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the Atlantic County web site at which includes links to the NJ Department of Health. The state has also activated a 24-hour hotline with trained health professionals available to answer questions about the virus at 1-800-222-1222.

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.