WOODBRIDGE – As public school students in his legislative district and around the State make their return to the classroom this week, State Senator Joseph F. Vitale, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, assured parents that New Jersey is fully prepared for a resurgence of the H1N1 Influenza virus, a highly contagious variant of the flu that has been identified as “swine flu” in media reports.
“I’ve been in touch with officials from the State Department of Health and Senior Services, and I am confident that we are ready to meet this public health risk head on,” said Senator Vitale, D-Woodbridge. “While the resurgence of H1N1 is something that we have to monitor very closely, we can contain the risk and minimize the danger with common-sense prevention tips and strong communication between parents, school administrators and public health officials in the event that a child does become sick. With proper precautions, H1N1 can be no more serious than the seasonal flu, but we all have to do our part by following prevention guidelines to contain this disease.”
Senator Vitale noted that prevention is key in avoiding an H1N1 epidemic in New Jersey. He said that New Jersey residents should wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, cover all coughs and sneezes, and stay home from school or work if they are sick. In addition to these basic prevention methods, Senator Vitale said that if a family member becomes sick and the illness progresses, the family should call their family physician, and not rush the person to the hospital emergency room. Finally, he encouraged all State residents to receive a seasonal flu shot and an H1N1 flu shot when these vaccines are being offered, and said that vaccines will be available to all New Jerseyans, whether insured, uninsured or underinsured.
“For those people who cannot afford the cost of the vaccine and do not have insurance coverage, the State will be making free vaccines available,” said Senator Vitale. “It’s in all of our interests to keep State residents from catching the H1N1 flu variant, and no one should be denied access to a potentially life-saving vaccine because they cannot afford it. As more information is made available regarding no-cost vaccines for the uninsured, the info will be posted on the State Web site.”
Senator Vitale added that vaccines will be covered by Medicare and Medicaid, as well as private insurers.
According to the lawmaker, the State has done more to prepare for the resurgence of H1N1 beyond just providing access to vaccines. Over the summer, local, county and State health officials, health care providers and public and private health infrastructure sectors participated in a Pandemic Influenza Response Summit to increase the State’s preparedness to respond to an H1N1 outbreak. The State has also conducted training for local and county health officers, as well as school nurses, administrators and public education officials on the K-12 and college levels to effectively respond to an outbreak of the disease.
“We are fully prepared, on a number of levels, to combat this disease, but the most effective way to stop an outbreak is to prevent it from happening in the first place,” said Senator Vitale. “We’re going to depend on State residents to make good health care choices, but we will also be ready if H1N1 reaches epidemic proportions in the Garden State. Working together on all fronts, we will hopefully be able to keep our public school students – and all State residents – safe, and minimize the danger of H1N1 in our State.”