Editor’s note: A Hackensack Meridian spokesperson said at 11 p.m. that the patient they were examining does have not coronavirus.
“Our hospital, Department of Health and local health officials are working together to gather additional information. No definitive diagnosis has been made regarding the patient. As a precautionary measure, our hospital is following all appropriate infection control protocols,” Nancy Radwin, spokeswoman for Hackensack Meridian Health, said in a statement.
The spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for more information, including the patient’s condition, when the possible case was reported and what prompted officials to take precautions.
The state Department of Health issued a nearly identical statement in response Thursday night, which reiterated that there was no confirmation of the virus and precautions were being taken.
The epicenter of the viral outbreak was traced to Wuhan, China, a city of about 11 million people.
Coronavirus has infected more than 400 people and at least 17 have people have died. No deaths have occurred in the United States, while there was one confirmed case in Washington State, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The man infected in the Seattle-area had traveled to Wuhan, officials said. A Texas A&M University student was also being evaluated for the virus after traveling from Wuhan and arriving at a Texas hospital with a cough and congestion.
The coronavirus can cause fever, cough and shortness of breath, and can develop into pneumonia.
The Chinese government has quarantined Wuhan, sealing off its airport and public transportation systems to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Make no mistake, this is an emergency in China,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a news conference Thursday. “But it is not yet a global health emergency.”
Dr. Debra Chew, assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a former CDC epidemic intelligence officer, told NJ Advance Media that while any new deadly virus poses public health concerns, there did not appear to be a major threat to people in the U.S.
“At this point, I think the risk to the public health is low,” Chew said in a recent interview.
U.S. senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez have called for the federal government to begin screening travelers for the virus at Newark Liberty International Airport because similar precautions have been put in place at New York’s JFK International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
Health experts urged people to use standard hygiene practices, including washing hands often with soap and water and using hand sanitizer.