Officials: New Jersey Poison Control Hotline inundated with calls about coronavirus
New Jersey health officials say that they have been fielding numerous telephone calls from the public about coronavirus concerns.
State officials say that there are not confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Garden State. But U.S. health officials have declared the virus a public health emergency. President Donald Trump has also barred entry of foreign nationals who pose a risk of spreading the illness.
To quell the concern of New Jerseyans, a hotline was set up to provide information about coronavirus.
“As of today, the risk to the public health is still low,” says Dr. Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJPIES). “That’s coming from the CDC, Department of Health, all the experts commenting on this say all this time the risk of the public health is low.
But the call center has received 25%-30% more calls per day since the outbreak in China began. Calello says that this is because the public knows they can get a health care professional on the phone.
“That’s nurses, pharmacists and doctors. The call is free. There’s no copay, there’s no phone tree. You’ve got a health care professional on the line and right away,” she says.
But Calello says that the public should be more concerned about the flu, as it is still flu season.
“I’m concerned the coronavirus is taking away the concern that people must have about the flu. Flu is a dangerous respiratory virus. It is contagious. It’s vaccine-preventable,” she says.
There are nearly 10,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide – mostly concentrated in China. Several airlines have suspended flights to the country.
There were 195 Americans evacuated from China. They will have to be quarantined for two weeks to make sure they were not infected.
Coronavirus is considered contagious through coughs and sneezes. More information can be found on the NJPIES website