Health Blog

Protect Yourself and Be Prepared - NJ Poison Experts Warn of Snow-Related Poisoning Exposures 01 26 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

(Newark, NJ) – January 26, 2015 Dangerous conditions lay ahead for residents of the Garden State as they prepare for a massive winter storm expected later today into tomorrow. This storm is expected to cause extremely dangerous driving/traveling conditions – heavy snow with high accumulations; strong, gusty winds causing snow drifts; low visibility; slippery/icy roads; and frigid temperatures.  The NJ Poison Experts have weathered all storms alongside residents (24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year).  From our experience with Super Storm Sandy, we learned a great deal about unintentional poisonings/exposures that may occur in the midst of severe weather. 

“Major storms like the one we will be expecting later today into tomorrow are known to result in illness and even deaths from hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as exposures to a variety of substances.” said Steven Marcus, MD, executive and medical director of the NJ Poison Center. Exposures to carbon monoxide often happen when people attempt to heat their homes by using space heaters and portable generators that run on kerosene, propane, or natural gas without proper ventilation. The danger occurs when too much carbon monoxide gets trapped inside an area that is poorly ventilated. 

Keep in mind, high winds can result in power outages across the state. If power is lost it may be lost for an extensive period of time and your cell phone may become your lifeline!  “Remember, the experts are hard at work responding to your calls for help, 24/7/365,” said Dr. Marcus. Protecting yourself and being prepared is half the battle when dealing with such intense weather.

“We learned from Super Storm Sandy how important a fully charged cell phone can be when dealing with severe weather,” said Marcus. “To prepare for this storm, program the Poison Help Hotline (800-222-1222) into all phones (home, cell, office) now.” Keep your cell phone charged whenever possible.

Below you will find key safety tips and prevention precautions that may potentially save your life or the life of a loved ones.

Safety Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
·         Check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector. If you don’t have either detector, install before the storm hits.
·         Clear any snow accumulation from all outside dryer and heating vents.
·         Remove snow from car exhaust pipe(s) before sitting in car and letting it warm up. Failure to remove snow can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Be sure there is ample room for air to circulate behind your car to allow any exhaust to dissipate and not build up around your car.
·         Do not bring a portable gas powered generator into the home or garage –
o   Do not place them outside near any open windows/doors
o   They should be at least 25 feet from any house 
·         Do not bring other gas powered equipment, propane stoves, propane lights, or kerosene camping stoves into the house or garage.
·         Do not heat your home with your stove.
·         DO not cook with charcoal indoors or inside your house or garage.
·         DO NOT idle a car in a closed garage. Once you pull in, immediately turn off the engine.
·         Keep your home well ventilated. If need be, keep a window slightly cracked to allow air flow.
·         During storm cleanup, keep all gas powered cleaning equipment outside away from the house when in use. Bringing and using them indoors could result in serious injury.

If you suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Take Immediate Action:  
1.       If a loved one is unconscious or unresponsive, get out them out of the house and call 911 immediately.
2.       Exit the house/building immediately. Do not waste time opening windows to “air” it out; this will delay your escape and cause you to breathe in more dangerous fumes.
3.       Contact your local fire department/energy provider.
4.       Call the NJ Poison Experts, 800-222-1222, for immediate treatment advice. Do not waste time looking for information on the internet about carbon monoxide poisoning. Call us for fast, free and accurate information.

General Safety Tips:
·         Have a flashlight with fresh batteries ready to use (you may have used the flashlight during previous storms including Hurricane Sandy, replace the batteries if you did).
o   Make sure to use a flashlight when giving or taking medication. Read all labels carefully.
·         Have a battery-operated radio available and be sure the batteries are fresh.
·         Risk for hypothermia increases with frigid temperatures. Infants, children, and the elderly are at greatest risk for hypothermia. 
o   Signs and symptoms include headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination, and death
o   Stay warm and dress appropriately! For prolonged exposure to cold, wear insulated or layered clothing that does not retain moisture.  Wear a head cover!
o   Avoid over-exertion and excessive sweating in the cold. Snow shoveling is a very intense exercise.  If you are not in top physical shape, don’t attempt it yourself.
o   Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature.
o   Avoid drinking alcohol, especially in cold temperatures.
o   Some medications may increase your risk.  Check with your doctor, pharmacist or call the Poison Control Center

Safety Tips to Prevent Food Spoilage during a Power Outage:
·         With the threat of power outages, it is important to be careful about food stored in refrigerators and freezers. Food-borne illness, also known as food poisoning, results from the eating of food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses or other foreign material. Contamination is caused by improper food handling and preparation practices. The symptoms of food-borne illness are flu-like and may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever.
·         In preparing for a power outage, make the temperature colder than usual on both freezers and refrigerators.  This will prolong the cold after a power outage.
·         During a power outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed and open them only when necessary.
·         Place a refrigerator thermometer in the center of the middle shelf and check the temperature. If it has risen to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, discard any potentially spoiled foods. Such foods include meat, poultry, fish, dairy and egg products, soft cheese, cooked beans, cooked rice, cooked potatoes, cooked pasta, potato salad, custard and pudding.
·         Fill freezers to capacity, but refrigerators need room for air to circulate.
·         When power is restored, allow time for the refrigerator to reach below 40 degrees Fahrenheit before restocking.
·         If it looks funny, smells funny or if you are just unsure, "When in doubt, throw it out!"

Don’t waste valuable time looking up information on the Internet when every minute counts.  “Many of the calls we get are genuine emergencies,” said Marcus. Poisons may act very quickly. Having a poison expert give you exact instructions for your specific situation can help significantly during those critical first few minutes.

Seasonal Flu At Elevated Levels

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The flu season has begun with an earlier than usual start. Flu activity is expected to continue in the coming weeks.

Seasonal flu is a serious disease that causes illness, hospitalizations, and unfortunately, deaths. Those most vulnerable are older adults and the very young.

"Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, absenteeism from work or school, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths," said Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito. "Even unvaccinated people who have already gotten sick with flu can still benefit from vaccination since the flu vaccine protects against the different viruses expected to circulate each season."

The media has been reporting that the main circulating flu virus is not perfectly matched by the vaccine. Flu viruses can change and sometimes this happens. Yet, the flu vaccine is still the best protection and can minimize symptoms of flu. In the context of reduced vaccine effectiveness, however, the use of influenza antiviral drugs as a second line of defense against the flu becomes even more important, especially for those at high risk and people who are very sick. This is a prescription medication, so if you have signs of the flu, contact your health care provider, as the medication is most effective when used within 48 hours of symptoms.

Flu symptoms include:
  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It's important to note that not every one with flu will have a fever.

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) would like to remind all healthcare providers to:
encourage all patients 6 months of age and older who have not yet received an influenza vaccine this season to be vaccinated against influenza start antiviral treatment as early as possible for any patient with confirmed or suspected influenza and not wait for laboratory confirmation of influenza to make treatment decisions promote preventive health practices that help decrease the spread of influenza.

Ebola Update: 10-24-2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

With the first confirmed case of Ebola in NYC, we remind Morris County residents that there are no cases in New Jersey. The patient in NYC remains in isolation and the three close contacts have been identified and are now in quarantine. NYC has begun to identify people who may have had contact with the patient, but are not considered close contacts.

We continue to update the Morris Health website with the most current information on Ebola from New Jersey Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. We are coordinating with state and local health care partners to be watchful for any potential cases or close contacts.

What You Need to Know About Ebola 10-15-2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A person infected with Ebola can’t spread the disease until symptoms appear

The time from exposure to when signs or symptoms of the disease appear (the incubation period) is 2 to 21 days, but the average time is 8 to 10 days. Signs of Ebola include fever (higher than 101.5°F) and symptoms like severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood and body fluids

Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or through your eyes, nose, or mouth) with:

  • Blood and body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.
  • Objects (like needles) that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola.

Ebola is not spread through the air, water, or food.

Protect yourself against Ebola

There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola. Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.

To protect yourself from Ebola

  • DO wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Do NOT touch the blood or body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of people who are sick.
  • Do NOT handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids, like clothes, bedding, needles.
  • Do NOT touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola

source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Enterovirus D68 In Communities in New Jersey 10-01-2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

As NJ continues to test people that may be sick with Enterovirus D68, they are beginning to find cases in N.J. So far a handful of people have tested positive. More people have tested positive for other enteroviruses and the cold virus It is important to know that this is the end of the enterovirus season and the beginning of flu season.

Anyone who has a cold that worsens quickly and/or develops breathing difficulties should contact their health care provider. Once again, the best prevention for illness is hand washing: often and with warm water and soap. Hand sanitizers are not as effective against viruses.

For more information, visit the New Jersey Department of Health website and review the Frequently Asked Questions, which is routinely updated. 

First Case of Ebola in the U.S. - CDC Press Release 09/30/2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed today, through laboratory tests, the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States in a person who had traveled to Dallas, Texas from Liberia. The patient did not have symptoms when leaving West Africa, but developed symptoms approximately four days after arriving in the U.S. on Sept. 20.

The person fell ill on Sept. 24 and sought medical care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas on Sept. 26. After developing symptoms consistent with Ebola, he was admitted to hospital on Sept. 28. Based on the person’s travel history and symptoms, CDC recommended testing for Ebola. The medical facility isolated the patient and sent specimens for testing at CDC and at a Texas lab participating in the CDC’s Laboratory Response Network. CDC and the Texas Health Department reported the laboratory test results to the medical center to inform the patient. A CDC team is being dispatched to Dallas to assist with the investigation.

“Ebola can be scary. But there’s all the difference in the world between the U.S. and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading. The United States has a strong health care system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities,” said CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “While it is not impossible that there could be additional cases associated with this patient in the coming weeks, I have no doubt that we will contain this.”

The ill person did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa and CDC does not recommend that people on the same commercial airline flights undergo monitoring, as Ebola is contagious only if the person is experiencing active symptoms. The person reported developing symptoms several days after the return flight. Anyone concerned about possible exposure may call CDC-Info at 800-CDC-INFO for more information.

CDC recognizes that even a single case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States raises concerns. Knowing the possibility exists, medical and public health professionals across the country have been preparing to respond. CDC and public health officials in Texas are taking precautions to identify people who have had close personal contact with the ill person, and health care professionals have been reminded to use meticulous infection control at all times.

We do know how to stop Ebola’s further spread: thorough case finding, isolation of ill people, contacting people exposed to the ill person, and further isolation of contacts if they develop symptoms. The U.S. public health and medical systems have had prior experience with sporadic cases of diseases such as Ebola. In the past decade, the United States had 5 imported cases of viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) diseases similar to Ebola (1 Marburg, 4 Lassa). None resulted in any transmission in the United States.

CDC has been anticipating and preparing for a case of Ebola in the United States. We have been:

•Enhancing surveillance and laboratory testing capacity in states to detect cases •Developing guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations •Providing recommendations for  healthcare infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread •Providing guidance for flight crews, Emergency Medical Services units at airports, and Customs and Border Protection officers about reporting ill travelers to CDC •Disseminating up-to-date information to the general public, international travelers, and public health partners The data health officials have seen in the past few decades since Ebola was discovered indicate that it is not spread through casual contact or through the air. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person or exposure to objects such as needles that have been contaminated. The illness has an average 8-10 day incubation period (although it ranges from 2 to 21 days); CDC recommends monitoring exposed people for symptoms a complete 21 days. People are not contagious after exposure unless they develop symptoms.

More information is available at

Ebola Crisis in West Africa Prompts Strictest Warning - July 31, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

CDC on Thursday, July 31, issued a warning to avoid all nonessential travel to the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The Level 3 travel warning, which is the highest level possible, is a reflection of the worsening Ebola outbreak in that region.

“This is the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a news release, adding: “It will take many months, and it won’t be easy, but Ebola can be stopped. We know what needs to be done. CDC is surging our response, sending 50 additional disease control experts to the region in the next 30 days.”

In addition to warning travelers to avoid going to the region, CDC is also assisting with active screening and education efforts on the ground in West Africa to prevent sick travelers from getting on planes. On the remote possibility that they do, CDC has protocols in place to protect against further spread of disease. These include notification to CDC of ill passengers on a plane before arrival, investigation of ill travelers, and, if necessary, quarantine. Earlier in the week CDC issued a Health Alert Notice.

Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).

When an infection does occur in humans, there are several ways in which the virus can be transmitted to others. These include:
        •direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person
        •exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions

Ebola does not spread through the air or respiratory droplets like flu or other contagious illnesses. For more information, visit,

Previous Posts


Subscribe in a reader (RSS)
Subscribe by email