Jersey’s public health agencies, health care organizations
and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) are actively
monitoring an outbreak of atypical pneumonia that has, in the past
week, infected 170 people in Asia and Canada and resulted in nine
There are no known or suspected cases in New Jersey, and our public
and private health care infrastructure is engaged in surveillance
and prepared to identify and treat potential cases.
World Health Organization (WHO), which is investigating the spread
of the disease, issued a health alert over the weekend declaring
the illness “a worldwide health threat.’’ As of
this afternoon the syndrome has been positively identified in Canada
and six Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore,
Thailand and Vietnam. Recent news reports include suspected cases
in England, France, Slovenia, Switzerland and Australia.
Saturday, March 15, DHSS received a health alert from the federal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and immediately
transmitted information to hospitals and public health agencies
explaining how to identify potential cases and denoting appropriate
reporting mechanisms. All health officials in New Jersey have been
instructed to immediately report any suspected cases by telephone
to both DHSS and local health officials. The DHSS will then communicate
with the CDC.
state epidemiologist Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, DHSS senior staff and I
conducted a series of conference calls with hospital and public
health officials to review the available information and answer
are two known cases of infected individuals who have traveled in
the United States. A doctor who treated a patient in Singapore was
in New York briefly last week, and a woman who contracted the disease
in Canada traveled from Canada to Georgia and back prior to diagnosis.
New Jersey is a hub for international travel and commerce. DHSS
has responded by activating its public health surveillance network
and communicating with public health and health care entities in
workers were informed that SARS is highly contagious, and 90 percent
of those infected worldwide are health care personnel who came in
contact with SARS patients. Any patient who meets the case definition
should be managed with the appropriate infection control methods
as outlined by the CDC as outlined on the web site below. Conventional
methods of treating the illness appear to be ineffective, and the
best response is to isolate the patient, treat the symptoms and
minimize contact with other people.
Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a form of atypical pneumonia
occurring in a person who has traveled to a country with an outbreak
or come in contact with a person infected with the syndrome. SARS,
the cause of which has not yet been identified, begins as an influenza-like
illness, with such symptoms as rapid onset of high fever, muscle
aches, headache, sore throat, dry cough and shortness of breath.
X-rays show pneumonia and/or respiratory distress syndrome. Laboratory
tests show low numbers of white blood cells and platelets. Many
affected individuals have experienced respiratory failure requiring
has urged all travelers to be aware of the symptoms associated with
SARS. CDC has developed travel alerts for individuals entering the
United States. DHSS will maintain close communication with the CDC
and New Jersey’s public health and health care communities.
For more information, log on to www.cdc.gov/travel.