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Serious patients' risks of death higher than SARS

By WANG XIAODONG in Wuhan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-02-21 07:31
Liu Xiaoliang/China Daily

An increasing number are being saved as an influx of capable medics arrive

Serious patients of the novel coronavirus pneumonia face higher risks of death than SARS patients, but intensified efforts to improve recovery have started to pay off, senior clinical experts said.

"Unlike SARS, which only targets the lungs, the novel coronavirus also attacks other important organs such as heart and kidneys and can result in multiple organ failure," Tong Zhaohui, vice-president of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, said on Wednesday night in Wuhan."What's worse is that elderly people are more likely to be in serious condition, and it will be very difficult to save them if two or more organs fail at the same time."

As of the end of Wednesday, there has been more than 74,000 confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland, resulting in 2,118 deaths-nearly three times the reported number of deaths during the SARS outbreak in 2003-the National Health Commission said on Thursday.

In Wuhan, capital of Hubei province and the epicenter of the outbreak, the reported number of existing cases reached nearly 38,000, including 9,689 in serious condition, accounting for about 82 percent of all serious patients on the mainland, according to the commission.

Tong said unlike SARS, which mostly affected young and middle-aged people, the novel coronavirus tends to result in serious illness to elderly people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Among the milder cases, some will suddenly deteriorate, which requires doctors to closely monitor mild patients," he said.

With doctors and nurses continuously arriving from outside Hubei province since late last month, the number of medical staff capable of treating novel coronavirus patients in critical condition in Wuhan has greatly increased, resulting in more patients being saved, Tong said.

"We can see the number of deaths from the disease has started to decline in general," he said. "Previously, a number of serious patients were unable to be rescued in a timely manner, and now the problem is being solved gradually."

In Wuhan, for example, 88 novel coronavirus patients died on Wednesday, a fall from 116 the previous day, figures released by local health authorities showed.

Health authorities across China and the military have sent more than 30,000 medical staff to Wuhan to work with local doctors and nurses to save patients, including 11,000 specialized in critical medicine-accounting for nearly 10 percent of the country's total, Guo Yanhong, an official from the National Health Commission, said earlier this week.

Jiang Rongmeng, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases at Beijing Ditan Hospital, affiliated to Capital Medical University, said of all medical staff sent to Hubei to help it fight the disease, none has been found infected with the virus so far.

Previously, a report by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 3,000 medical workers have been infected with the virus, including those infected while treating patients.

Jiang, also a member of an expert team organized by the National Health Commission, said most of the medical staff were infected before February, when knowledge of infectiousness of the virus was not well known.

"This proves that medical workers can avoid being infected by the virus as long as they have taken effective measures for protection," he said.

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