Dear Rutgers Community Members,
In the past 24 hours, guidance has evolved from global and federal health partners on the outbreak of the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), so we are writing to keep you updated on those changes. Last night, the World Health Organization determined that the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. In addition, the U.S. Department of State has updated its travel advisory to “Do Not Travel” to China. Today, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services declared the coronavirus a public health emergency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the U. S. government would quarantine for two weeks the 195 U.S. citizens who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
To be consistent with these new travel recommendations, Rutgers is restricting all travel to China—this includes travel for university business such as (but not limited to) teaching, study abroad, conferences, presentations, internships, research, recruiting, and athletic competitions.
There are no suspected cases of coronavirus at Rutgers and to date no confirmed cases in New Jersey. The CDC has stated that while person-to-person spread among close contacts has been detected with this virus, at this time this virus is NOT currently spreading in any community in the United States. Rutgers clinical providers and our student health services teams have already put measures into place to screen symptoms and establish safeguards in the event that a Rutgers community member is identified with the virus. We remain in close contact with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH) and continue to monitor and assess the most up-to-date information and recommendations from the NJ DOH and the federal (CDC) regarding the current coronavirus outbreak.
We have created a webpage (academichealth.rutgers.edu/coronavirus) where up-to-date information about the coronavirus, our preparations, and general guidance is available to address concerns expressed by our students, faculty, staff, and community members. Additionally, Rutgers New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, based at New Jersey Medical School, is serving as the New Jersey Department of Health Coronavirus Call Center. Assistance is available in multiple languages 24 hours a day at 1-800-222-1222.
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to avoid assumptions about who may or may not have come into contact with someone carrying the virus based on their identity. We must recognize the harm we do to our diverse community if we allow ourselves to make such assumptions.
It is also important to keep this new infectious threat in proper perspective. Although this is potentially a serious public health threat that we are watching very closely, we would like to remind everyone about the very active flu season we are currently experiencing in New Jersey and across the country and of the dangers the flu poses to our communities. Indeed, the flu has already killed far more people in the United States just this season than this novel coronavirus has killed worldwide. If you have not received a flu shot, please do so soon. The more people who are vaccinated against the flu will mean fewer cases of influenza, saving lives, and also providing less opportunity for confusion between its symptoms and those of the coronavirus.
Lastly, please help prevent contracting or spreading viruses by observing and encouraging good hygiene habits such as: covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands or using hand-sanitizer, and cleaning commonly touched surfaces regularly.
Wishing you good health,
Vicente Gracias, MD
Senior Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Vice President for Health Affairs, Rutgers University
Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH
Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, Rutgers University