The number of cases of the bacterial infection known as Communicable Disease Communovirus infection — or COVID-19 for short — reported in New Brunswick, N.J., this year is up 102 percent over the comparable period in 2014.
The cases are spreading fast, and all indications are that it could make its way to an area that is farther inland than the one between Washington and Philadelphia.
As of Thursday, there were 53 cases in New Brunswick in 2017 and 56 cases in the city of Newark and four cases in Trenton. Officials say the numbers are rising, however.
“These numbers tell us this is a very serious health threat,” Mark Powell, a New Brunswick Public Health spokesman, said in an interview. “The important thing to note is that we’ve had at least half a dozen cases of some of the most serious bacterial diseases. Anytime you have one of these cases, you have a very serious health issue.”
What makes COVID-19 particularly dangerous is that it disproportionately hits newborns, and the disease is highly contagious.
The number of cases linked to five infants has been going up steadily since 2014. Four newborns died in New Brunswick last year, while two died in Newark and one in Trenton. All five are believed to have contracted the infection after coming into contact with someone who was infected.
Powell said the first fatal case began in May, and that some of the babies were being treated for their illnesses.
“Some of the children who got it were quite sick,” he said. “They were hospitalized, they went through therapy, they had complications.”
He said the incubation period for COVID-19 is six to eight weeks and therefore infants may get infected just before becoming infants, but could still have time to try to protect themselves.
New Brunswick Public Health, along with state health authorities, is still trying to figure out why the disease is spreading so rapidly.
“What we know is that there was a past transmission in another state and there’s been some other issues, or events leading up to some of the contamination, which are going to make this transmission pretty rapid and much more intense than normal,” he said.
With reporting by Peter Hermann, Erin Lu, Jennifer Peltz, Dominique Pastre and Jennifer Peltz.