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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.
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.