Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced a series of actions to raise awareness and prepare New York State in response to an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced two confirmed cases in the United States - one in Washington State and one in Chicago. The State Department of Health currently has four persons under investigation for novel coronavirus that are under isolation as their cases are being tested at the CDC. So far, one of these cases has been proven negative and three are still pending. While the risk for New York is currently low, the Governor is calling for increased vigilance to ensure New Yorkers are protected.
Last week the Department of Health issued guidance to healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, clinical laboratories and local health departments to provide updated information about the outbreak, and ensure the proper protocols are in place if a patient is experiencing symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus, had a travel history to Wuhan, China, or had come in contact with an individual who was under investigation for this novel coronavirus.
Additionally, the Department has hosted a series of informational webinars for hospitals and local healthcare providers. Today the Department hosted a webinar for medical professionals at colleges and universities - many of which host international students - to disseminate information about the virus, infection control recommendations and the current criteria for testing.
Last week’s health guidance coincided with the start of a CDC-led airport entry screening program at John F. Kennedy International Airport for passengers arriving from Wuhan, China. Chinese officials have since closed transport in and out of Wuhan and other cities in the province, including their international airports. DOH, Port Authority and the New York City Health Department will continue to work collaboratively with CDC as their travel screening process evolves. To date, no passenger has required further evaluation as a result of the CDC-led passenger program at JFK. To raise further awareness for all international travel, Governor Cuomo has directed the Port Authority to post informational signs at all four Port Authority international airports.
Symptoms of the novel coronavirus may include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- A general feeling of being unwell.
The CDC recommends that individuals avoid all nonessential travel to Wuhan, China, but has provided specific information for those who are still planning a trip to Wuhan and for individuals who have recently returned from that city and may be experiencing the above symptoms. While there is currently no vaccine for this novel coronavirus, everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Individuals who are experiencing symptoms and may have traveled to areas of concern, or have been in contact with somebody who has traveled to these areas, should call ahead to their healthcare provider before presenting for treatment.