Coronavirus whistle-blower Li Wenliang, 34, dies after catching it from a patient

A Chinese hospital has denied the claims that a doctor who was among the first to alert the public of a potential coronavirus epidemic had died of the disease.

Wuhan Central Hospital said Li Wenliang was in critical condition and medics were trying their best to resuscitate him, according to a post on its official social media account.

State media Global Times reported earlier that the 34-year-old doctor had died of coronavirus at the age of 34.  

Dr Li caught the public’s attention after being reprimanded for warning on social media of ‘SARS at a Wuhan seafood market’. He was accused of spreading ‘fake news’ and criticised by police and his hospital.

Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, 34, confirmed on Saturday that he had caught the deadly disease while treating patients at a hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak

Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, 34, confirmed on Saturday that he had caught the deadly disease while treating patients at a hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak

He had been reprimanded by police after warning on social media of 'SARS at a Wuhan seafood market'

He had been reprimanded by police after warning on social media of 'SARS at a Wuhan seafood market'

Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, 34, confirmed on Saturday that he had caught the deadly disease while treating patients at a hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. He had been reprimanded by police after warning on social media of ‘SARS at a Wuhan seafood market’

Dr Li, a medic at the Wuhan Central Hospital, confirmed his infection on his social media account on Saturday. 

His death was reported by state newspaper Global Times at around 9:30pm local time today.

In a post through its official social media account, the newspaper claimed to have learned the news from multiple sources. 

The post gathered tens of thousands of comments in a matter of minutes, but has been removed by the newspaper for unspecified reasons.  

The news was also confirmed by BBC

The death of Dr Li Wenliang was confirmed by state media Global Times citing sources

The death of Dr Li Wenliang was confirmed by state media Global Times citing sources

The death of Dr Li Wenliang was confirmed by state media Global Times citing sources

WHO paid tribute to Dr Li on its official Twitter account after reports claimed he had died

WHO paid tribute to Dr Li on its official Twitter account after reports claimed he had died

WHO paid tribute to Dr Li on its official Twitter account after reports claimed he had died

World Health Organization (WHO) wrote on its official Twitter account: ‘We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate work that he did on #2019nCoV.’ 

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK 

More than 28,200 people are now confirmed to have been infected with the 2019-nCoV.

Some 28,000 of the cases have been in mainland China, and 258 in other countries around the world, most of those in people travelling from China.

A total of 565 people have died, only two of those outside of China.

Dozens of countries have restricted the movement of people from China by either banning foreign citizens from entering their country if they have been to China in the past two weeks, or stopping all flights from China.

Western nations have been chartering planes to the crisis-hit city of Wuhan to evacuate their citizens. Australia and New Zealand evacuated this week and the UK will send its second plane on Sunday.

China said it will open 11 extra makeshift hospitals to deal with overwhelming numbers of coronavirus patients. Streets all over the country are deserted as people are too afraid to leave their homes. 

But hours later, Wuhan Central Hospital – the hospital that has been treating Dr Li – refuted the reports. 

It announced: ‘In the fight of the epidemic of the new coronavirus pneumonia, our hospital’s ophthalmologist Li Wenliang unfortunately was infected and is in critical condition at present and we are trying our best to resuscitate him.’  

A WHO spokesperson informed MailOnline that the organisation responded to reports of Dr Li’s death at a press conference today.

The spokesperson said, however, the organisation was not in the position of confirming the news. 

The official death toll continues to rise as China‘s National Health Commission reported 73 new deaths overnight – another daily record.

The life-threatening disease has killed at least 565 people and infected more than 28,300 globally. 

The whistle-blower confirmed on Saturday that he had caught the deadly disease while treating patients at a hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

The medic was accused of spreading fake news and criticised by police earlier this month for sending a message to an online chatting group, informing his alumni that seven patients from the Huanan market had been diagnosed with SARS by his hospital.

Dr Li’s warning was posted on December 30 and came more than two weeks before the virus broke out in the city of 14 million, causing it to be put on lockdown on January 20. 

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market turned out to be the breeding ground of the new strain of coronavirus, which is similar to SARS and has been named ‘2019-nCov’.

Dr Li was among eight doctors who were dubbed ‘rumourmongers’ by Wuhan authorities and investigated by police. 

His original messages, sent to about 150 medics on popular messaging platform WeChat, read: ‘Seven confirmed SARS cases were found in Huanan Fruit and Seafood Market.’

He continued: ‘[The patients] were in quarantine in the Houhu Branch of our hospital.’

Huoshenshan Hospital, a dedicated facility to treat coronavirus patients in Wuhan, opened yesterday after construction workers toiled day and night through Lunar New Year holiday

Huoshenshan Hospital, a dedicated facility to treat coronavirus patients in Wuhan, opened yesterday after construction workers toiled day and night through Lunar New Year holiday

Huoshenshan Hospital, a dedicated facility to treat coronavirus patients in Wuhan, opened yesterday after construction workers toiled day and night through Lunar New Year holiday

It is the second such hospital to have opened in China - after the first coronavirus hospital opened in Huanggang last Tuesday. Authorities are building at least three more across China

It is the second such hospital to have opened in China - after the first coronavirus hospital opened in Huanggang last Tuesday. Authorities are building at least three more across China

It is the second such hospital to have opened in China – after the first coronavirus hospital opened in Huanggang last Tuesday. Authorities are building at least three more across China

The posts caught the attention of the police after one person in the chatting group uploaded a screen grab of the conversation onto the internet. 

According to Huaxi Urban Daily, the eight accused medics shared similar messages on three chatting groups, all attended by Wuhan medics. The messages warned the medics to pay attention to a possible outbreak of what they thought was SARS.

A statement from Wuhan police on January 1 condemned them of spreading ‘inauthentic’ information without proof. Officers said their acts had brought bad impact on society, and they would be ‘dealt with’ by law.

To salvage the situation, Wuhan police stressed last Wednesday that the eight people had not been warned, fined or detained. 

Chinese authorities reported 2,829 new cases yesterday plus 139 as of noon today, taking the number of infections to above 17,520 worldwide. In the picture above, people wear face masks and goggles while shopping in a supermarket on Saturday during the coronavirus outbreak

Chinese authorities reported 2,829 new cases yesterday plus 139 as of noon today, taking the number of infections to above 17,520 worldwide. In the picture above, people wear face masks and goggles while shopping in a supermarket on Saturday during the coronavirus outbreak

Chinese authorities reported 2,829 new cases yesterday plus 139 as of noon today, taking the number of infections to above 17,520 worldwide. In the picture above, people wear face masks and goggles while shopping in a supermarket on Saturday during the coronavirus outbreak

The Philippines has become the first country outside China to report deaths from coronavirus. Pictured, Chinese nationals rest at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila today

The Philippines has become the first country outside China to report deaths from coronavirus. Pictured, Chinese nationals rest at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila today

The Philippines has become the first country outside China to report deaths from coronavirus. Pictured, Chinese nationals rest at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila today

Dr Li told Chinese news outlet Caixin in an interview last Friday that he discovered the new virus could spread among humans around January 8 – 12 days before Chinese experts revealed the information to the public.

The man said on his social media account on Friday that he was hospitalised on January 12 after treating one patient who had coronavirus but did not show any symptoms. 

On Saturday, he said he was tested positive for coronavirus. 

The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city, experts confirmed on Sunday. In the picture above, a vendor wears a protective mask in an alley on January 31 in Wuhan, which has been on lockdown due to the virus since last Thursday

The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city, experts confirmed on Sunday. In the picture above, a vendor wears a protective mask in an alley on January 31 in Wuhan, which has been on lockdown due to the virus since last Thursday

The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city, experts confirmed on Sunday. In the picture above, a vendor wears a protective mask in an alley on January 31 in Wuhan, which has been on lockdown due to the virus since last Thursday

Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market. In the picture above, a resident walks across a road on January 31 in largely abandoned Wuhan

Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market. In the picture above, a resident walks across a road on January 31 in largely abandoned Wuhan

Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market. In the picture above, a resident walks across a road on January 31 in largely abandoned Wuhan

Chinese officials have now confirmed more than 9,750 cases, while more than 100 have been recorded outside of nation – taking the toll to more than 9,900. In the picture above, a man with a mask as he rides a bicycle across the Yangtze River Bridge on January 31 in Wuhan

Chinese officials have now confirmed more than 9,750 cases, while more than 100 have been recorded outside of nation – taking the toll to more than 9,900. In the picture above, a man with a mask as he rides a bicycle across the Yangtze River Bridge on January 31 in Wuhan

Chinese officials have now confirmed more than 9,750 cases, while more than 100 have been recorded outside of nation – taking the toll to more than 9,900. In the picture above, a man with a mask as he rides a bicycle across the Yangtze River Bridge on January 31 in Wuhan

The mayor of Wuhan admitted on January 21 that one doctor and 13 nurses in Wuhan had been infected while looking after one patient because the hospital neglected the patient’s symptoms. 

This was the first case of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus. 

The disease can be passed through saliva and the touching of contaminated objects. Over the weekend, Chinese experts raised the possibility of it being spread by faeces. The experts said they were looking for further proof. 

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE DEADLY CORONAVIRUS IN CHINA?

Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

At least 565 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 28,300 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here’s what we know so far:

What is the Wuhan coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus has almost certainly come from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of the virus in Wuhan came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent similar to a coronavirus they found in bats.

There may have been an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human, researchers suggested, although details of this are less clear.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.  

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, yesterday said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has so far killed 565 people out of a total of at least 28,300 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed.

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.  

Can the virus be cured? 

The Wuhan coronavirus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region. 

Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.

She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world. 

 

Link hienalouca.com

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