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January 30, 2020

New Jersey sets up coronavirus hotline in hopes of reducing public fear

More than 7,700 cases now confirmed in China

New Jersey has set up a 24-hour hotline to answer the public's questions about the deadly coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Wednesday. 

Though there are not any confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey, Murphy said during a press conference in Newark that he does not want residents to panic. 

The hotline number is 1-800-222-1222 and staffed by the state’s poison center, an arm of the Department of Health. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the risk to Americans remains low. But officials still consider the virus—which originated in Wuhan, China—a serious threat and expect additional U.S. cases to accumulate in the days to come. 

"We will continue our close partnership with both the CDC and other appropriate federal agencies to expedite testing of any potential coronavirus cases," Murphy said. “Again, let me reiterate there are currently no potential cases of coronavirus pending."

“Our state health authorities are on full alert for any possible cases of coronavirus and we have in place strong preparedness protocols,” Murphy continued.

The coronavirus has spread to more than 20 countries and territories, including the United States, Japan and South Korea. 

Symptoms of the novel coronavirus include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. They can appear as early as two days after exposure or as long as 14 days afterward.

The coronavirus is believed to spread by close personal contact, including coughing, sneezing and touching contaminated objects.

There have been more than 7,700 confirmed cases in China, including 170 deaths as of Thursday. Wuhan has implemented a complete travel ban on people entering or leaving the city.

As of Wednesday, the CDC had confirmed five U.S. cases of the coronavirus and that all five patients had recently traveled from Wuhan. The CDC had investigated 165 people for possible infection through Wednesday, with five testing positive and 68 testing negative. The other cases are currently pending.

At least 36 states, including Pennsylvania, had possible cases, and the CDC and state health officials are working closely together to identify more potential cases.

The U.S. is now screening passengers at 20 airports, including Philadelphia International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. 

The state’s Department of Health website has more information on the hotline.

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