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Six health care work­ers die as hun­dreds con­tract the virus

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China dis­closed yes­ter­day that 1,716 med­i­cal work­ers have died.have con­tracted the virus and six of them The an­nounce­ment was the first of­fi­cial confirmati­on about the num­ber of in­fected med­i­cal work­ers, and is likely to ratchet up fears about the spread of the virus.

Mean­while, con­firmed cases in main­land China rose to 63,851 by the end of Thurs­day, up 5,090 from the pre­vi­ous day. The death toll rose 121 to 1,380.

Zeng Yixin, deputy di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion, said the num­bers of in­fected work­ers rep­re­sented 3.8 per cent of China’s over­all con­firmed in­fec­tions as of February 11. The vic­tims rep­re­sented 0.4 per cent of all deaths na­tion­wide.

Zeng said that Hubei, the prov­ince at the cen­tre of the out­break, recorded 1,502 cases of in­fected med­i­cal work­ers, with 1,102 of them in Wuhan, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal. He added that fur­ther re­search was needed to as­cer­tain whether the in­fec­tions spread through­out the hos­pi­tal or within the com­mu­nity.

“I think it’s quite con­cern­ing,” said Ben­jamin Cowl­ing, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong. “Health care work­ers face the chal­lenge of car­ing for a sub­stan­tial num­ber of pa­tients in Wuhan. It’s wor­ry­ing to discover that a num­ber of them have been in­fected.”

Round the clock duty

Med­i­cal work­ers in Hubei, al­ready work­ing round the clock, face a short­age of per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment such as masks, gowns and safety gog­gles. They have re­sorted to beg­ging from friends, putting out fre­quent calls for do­na­tions, and us­ing tape to patch up torn masks and gowns. Many doc­tors and nurses there say they eat only one meal a day be­cause going to the re­stroom means re­mov­ing and dis­card­ing safety gowns that they would not be able to re­place.

A se­nior health of­fi­cial in Wuhan, China, the cen­tre of the out­break, has called on res­i­dents who have re­cov­ered from the coro­n­avirus to do­nate blood plasma, be­liev­ing their nat­u­rally pro­duced an­ti­bod­ies could be used to treat pa­tients who are still sick.

Dr. Zhang Dingyu, the di­rec­tor

of the Jiny­in­tan Hos­pi­tal in Wuhan, made his ap­peal on Thurs­day af­ter Chi­nese re­searchers said they be­lieved such an­ti­body treat­ments could help people re­cover from the virus.

The search for a drug ca­pa­ble of treat­ing or cur­ing the virus has frus­trated re­searchers, as rates of in­fec­tion and deaths con­tinue to mount. The gov­ern­ment is cur­rently pre­scrib­ing a com­bi­na­tion of anti-vi­ral drugs and tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine. But on Thurs­day, China Na­tional Biotec Group, a state-owned com­pany un­der the Min­istry of Health, said it found that ad­min­is­ter­ing a round of hu­man an­ti­bod­ies

from the sur­vivors to more than 10 crit­i­cally ill pa­tients caused in­flam­ma­tion lev­els to drop sig­nif­i­cantly af­ter 12 to 24 hours of treatment.

The com­pany called the use of plasma “the most ef­fec­tive method, which can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the mor­tal­ity of crit­i­cally ill pa­tients.”

Bank­ing on an­ti­bod­ies

Ben­jamin Cowl­ing, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong, said the use of an­ti­bod­ies to treat the coro­n­avirus was “a re­ally good idea,” not­ing that it had been used be­fore in in­fluenza pan­demics. But he cau­tioned that it needed to be proven in a con­trolled trial.

“It’s ba­si­cally trans­fer­ring im­mu­nity from a pa­tient who has re­cov­ered to a pa­tient still fight­ing the in­fec­tion, and then help­ing them to re­cover,” he said.

Surge in con­firmed cases

Mean­while num­bers con­tin­ued to climb af­ter the gov­ern­ment changed the cri­te­ria by which it tracks con­firmed cases. China yes­ter­day re­ported 5,090 new coro­n­avirus cases and 121 new deaths in the pre­vi­ous 24 hours.

The au­thor­i­ties said a to­tal of 63,851 people had been in­fected by the coro­n­avirus and at least 1,380 people had been killed by the dis­ease. Most of the cases oc­curred in Hubei, the cen­tre of the out­break, which recorded 4,823 new cases and 116 deaths over the same pe­riod.

The tally in Hubei jumped most dra­mat­i­cally on Thurs­day af­ter au­thor­i­ties changed the di­ag­nos­tic cri­te­ria for count­ing new cases.

The gov­ern­ment now takes into ac­count cases di­ag­nosed in clin­i­cal set­tings, in­clud­ing the use of CT scans, and not just those con­firmed with spe­cialised test­ing kits.

In Hong Kong, there were 56 con­firmed cases as of yes­ter­day. Fear­ing a wider out­break, res­i­dents have been stag­ing smallscale protests at sev­eral clin­ics as­signed to treat people with mild symp­toms of the virus.

Late last month, the gov­ern­ment shelved a plan to turn an un­oc­cu­pied hous­ing project into a quar­an­tine fa­cil­ity af­ter pro­test­ers set a fire in the lobby.

Reuters

A med­i­cal worker in pro­tec­tive suit checks a pa­tient’s records at Jiny­in­tan hos­pi­tal in Wuhan, the epi­cen­tre of the novel coro­n­avirus out­break, in Hubei prov­ince, China.

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