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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
December 03, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Jennifer Sciortino
609-984-7160


 
Department of Health and Senior Services Confirms New Jersey’s First Case of Influenza this Season


 

TRENTON – New Jersey has confirmed its first case of influenza, highlighting the importance of practicing universal respiratory precautions and hand hygiene to help prevent the spread of the disease, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. announced today.

 

“Influenza is now in New Jersey.  Because this is occurring during a season of flu vaccine shortage, everyone should now be practicing universal respiratory precautions and appropriate hand hygiene – covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and washing hands frequently and thoroughly,’’ said Dr. Lacy. “Also, stay home from work or school if you have flu-like illness.”

 

“These very simple practices help contain the spread of disease and protect those at high risk for complications of influenza.”

 

New Jersey’s influenza activity will be elevated to “sporadic” by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) once this first case is recorded. Last week, New Jersey was one of 14 states to report no influenza activity.

 

Influenza is not a reportable disease to the Department of Health and Senior Services. The Commissioner is announcing confirmation of the first influenza case to underscore the need for people to practice infection control. The DHSS does not release patient specific information and will not announce subsequent cases of influenza.

 

DHSS maintains an electronic Influenza-Like Illness surveillance system, which allows the department to identify the level of flu activity in the state. The department receives weekly reports from selected schools and nursing homes statewide. Schools report absenteeism rates and nursing homes report flu-like illness rates. New Jersey hospital emergency departments also report flu-like activity weekly.

 

"The data from these sources do not indicate an increase of influenza-like illness in the state to date," said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, State Epidemiologist and Senior Assistant Commissioner.

 

Since the vaccine shortage was announced in October, DHSS has been working with the state’s hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, local health departments, institutions for the mentally disabled, nursing homes and other long term care facilities to determine vaccine needs.

 

An additional 342,000 doses of vaccine are being made available in New Jersey through a nationwide reallocation plan. Earlier this season, 134,000 doses were shipped to local health departments.

 

Commissioner Lacy signed an administrative order on October 29 requiring health care professionals to administer influenza vaccine only to those people at high risk of serious, flu-related complications and their caregivers, as defined by the CDC. 

 

The CDC has identified the following priority groups to be vaccinated this season:

  • children aged 6–23 months;
  • adults aged 65 years and older;
  • persons aged 2–64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions;
  • all women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
  • residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;
  • children aged 6 months–18 years on chronic aspirin therapy;
  • health-care workers involved in direct patient care; and
  • out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old.

 

Anyone with questions about influenza and this year’s vaccine supply can call the DHSS hotline at 1-866-234-0964 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For additional information on influenza, please visit the department’s web site at: http://nj.gov/health/flu.

 

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