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For Release:
December 11, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
609 984-7160

New Jersey Announces Comprehensive SARS Preparedness and Response Plan


TRENTONNew Jersey is the second state in the nation to develop and post a comprehensive SARS preparedness and response plan on its public website.

This comprehensive plan is designed to protect the people of New Jersey in the event of a re-emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

According to a search of state health department websites, New Jersey joins only Missouri in states that have created and posted a SARS preparedness and response plan. The New Jersey plan is available on the DHSS website at

 In October 2003, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a draft national SARS preparedness and response plan and encouraged all states and territories to develop their own plans.

New Jersey’s plan was developed in collaboration with hospitals and other public health partners, organizations that are crucial for the successful implementation of the plan. It identifies the resources that are available to the public health community and outlines the procedures to be followed to protect the pubic health in the event of an outbreak of SARS.  

“With this plan, New Jersey is once again a national leader in public health preparedness,’’ said Clifton R. Lacy, M.D., New Jersey’s Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.  “It is yet unclear whether SARS will reappear as a national health threat. Nevertheless, we must be prepared. And, in preparing for SARS, we become better prepared for other re-emerging infections and disease outbreaks, and enhance our ability to detect and respond to health threats related to bioterrorism.”

New Jersey is particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases like SARS because of its geographic and demographic characteristics. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation, and has a major seaport, a large immigrant population and the busiest airport in the tri-state region.

New Jersey’s SARS plan will help the state’s public health care system:

  • identify SARS cases and exposed contacts;
  • promote rapid information exchange among clinicians, public health officials, and administrators of health care facilities;
  • implement measures to prevent the spread of SARS;
  • monitor the course and characteristics of an outbreak and promptly revise control strategies;
  • implement communications and education strategies to a variety of audiences, including the media, the public, health officials and community officials; and
  • coordinate and integrate preparedness and response efforts with other state preparedness plans.

 “The lessons we learned from last spring’s outbreak were invaluable in preparing New Jersey’s SARS preparedness and response plan,” said Dr. Eddy A. Bresnitz, State Epidemiologist and Senior Assistant Commissioner. “In addition, the plan outlines an approach to Universal Respiratory Precautions that will reduce the transmission of all contagious respiratory illnesses, including influenza.” 

Universal Respiratory Precautions involve the use of tissues or surgical masks to contain coughs and sneezes and frequent hand washing with soap and water.  Public health care professionals should wear eye protection and contact precautions, such as gown and gloves, when seeing patients with respiratory symptoms. 

The plan also addresses preventing the transmission of SARS using isolation and quarantine.  Isolation is the act of separating ill persons from healthy persons and restricting their movements to stop the spread of illness. People in isolation may be cared for in their homes, in hospitals, or at designated health care facilities.

Quarantine applies to people who have been exposed and may be infected but are not yet ill. Separating exposed people from the public is intended to stop the spread of that illness.

SARS is a contagious, lower respiratory tract illness that begins as an influenza-like illness, with symptoms including rapid onset of high fever, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, dry cough and shortness of breath.  X-rays generally show pneumonia and/or respiratory distress syndrome.  Many affected individuals have experienced respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation.

There is currently no cure or preventive therapy for SARS. The CDC recommends that SARS patients receive the same supportive treatment that would be used for any patient with serious community-acquired atypical pneumonia.

The world’s first SARS outbreak began in China in November 2002 and spread to more than two dozen countries in North and South America, Europe and Asia. More than 8,000 people became ill and about 10 percent of those died. In the United States, 164 suspected and probable cases were reported to the CDC. New Jersey reported one confirmed and one suspect case earlier this year.

New Jersey is far better prepared today for public health emergencies than we were last year. We must remain vigilant. We must continue to improve our preparedness and ability to respond rapidly and effectively to all public health threats," said Dr. Lacy.

For more information on SARS, visit the DHSS website at,

The CDC website at or the World Health Organization website at


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