Instead of helping out on the front lines, she was quarantined at home for weeks after a chest scan on January 26 revealed she had a suspected case of the novel Coronavirus.
Zhu was told to wait for a nucleic acid test that would provide the final verdict, but it never came.
“Right now, it’s really a problem. Our hospital already has more than 100 people in quarantine at home,” he told CNN on the phone. Another 30 health workers have been confirmed to have the virus, he said.
“If the tests go well, we can go back to work. Actually I don’t have any symptoms, there is only a slight problem with my CT scan, there seems to be some infection,” he said.
Zhu estimates that of the hospital’s 500 medical staff, over 130 may have been affected by the virus, which has so far infected over 60,000 overall
. She refused to advertise her hospital’s name and asked to use a pseudonym as she was not allowed to speak to the media.
The situation in his hospital is not unique. A nurse from Wuhan Central Hospital said on Weibo
The Chinese Twitter-like platform that around 150 colleagues at her hospital have been confirmed or suspected of being infected, including herself.
The nurse, who had been in quarantine at home since she was infected last month, was finally hospitalized where she works for treatment on Tuesday.
“The plan (inpatient) I live in is basically full of colleagues from my hospital,” she written in a post
on Wednesday. “These are mainly double or triple rooms, with my colleagues’ names and numbers clearly written in black and white on the doors.”
Every time her medical colleagues came to check on her, she said, she would hold her breath. “I fear that the virus inside my body will come out and infect these colleagues who are still standing in the front line”, she wrote
On Friday, 1,716 health workers nationwide were revealed to have been infected with the virus, six of which had died, according to China’s National Health Commission (NHC). Almost 90% (87.5%) of those doctors came from the Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.
More than a thousand infected in Wuhan
Healthcare professionals have long faced a high risk of infection during severe outbreaks, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic
which swept China from late 2002 to 2003. In Wuhan, the epicenter of the noval corronavirus epidemic, however, that risk is now compounded by a terrible shortage of medical resources to cope with the influx of patients, as well as the government’s late warning of the high rate of infection.
In Wuhan alone, 1,102 health workers were infected, accounting for 73% of infections in the province and 64% nationwide.
The city of 11 million people has 398 hospitals and nearly 6,000 community clinics. However, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission has designated nine hospitals to treat coronavirus cases, as well as 61 other hospitals whose outpatient clinics will receive patients with fever – believed to be a common symptom of pneumonia-like illness.
In some of these designated hospitals, medical personnel have made up a significant percentage of infected patients.
For example, 40 health workers were infected at Zhongnan Hospital, one of 61 case hospitals, accounting for nearly 30% of the 138 coronavirus patients hospitalized from 1 to 28 January, according to a research paper
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last week.
Peng Zhiyong, director of acute medicine at Zhongnan hospital who wrote the newspaper, told the Chinese research magazine Caixin that “the relationship is already very small compared to other hospitals.”
At Wuhan No. 7 Hospital, another of 61 facilities, two thirds of ICU staff were infected due to a shortage of medical resources, Peng said, citing his deputy director who was sent to assist that hospital, according to the report.
The Wuhan government acknowledged the shortage of medical supplies, such as N95 specialized respiratory masks, goggles and protective suits. Wuhan hospitals have he called for help
repeatedly on social media, asking for multiple donations of protective equipment, which are critical to protecting frontline staff from catching the virus from patients.
In Weibo, a state-run People’s Daily post showed medical personnel in a Wuhan hospital creating protective gear from plastic bags.
In addition to the lack of masks, gloves and protective suits, health workers have also been extended to their limits by the overwhelming workload. Cross-infection among hospital staff is believed to have occurred in tearooms and meeting areas after long grueling shifts, according to David Hui Shu-cheong, a breathing expert from the University of Hong Kong, citing doctors who they were sent to help hospitals in Wuhan from Beijing.
On Friday, the NHC promised to “tangibly improve the working conditions of frontline health workers” and better protect their rights and interests.
“I am full of respect and gratitude to all frontline health workers, but what we really need to do is to give them more care and concern,” said Commission Assistant Deputy Director Zeng Yixin.
Transmission from man to man
The seed of the problem, however, had been sown at the beginning of the crisis, even before medical resources began to run out.
The government’s initial delay in releasing information about the outbreak meant that medical personnel were unaware of the potential dangers in its early stages. Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted to CCTV late last month that his government did not disclose coronavirus information “in a timely manner”.
The Chinese authorities repeatedly pointed out in the early days of the epidemic that no health worker was infected: an important sign for possible person-to-person transmission suggested that the virus was not as contagious.
, a Wuhan doctor who dead
by the coronavirus, he had tried to warn others at the beginning of the outbreak, but was silenced and punished by the police for “spreading rumors”. Li’s suppression, along with other doctors who tried to sound the alarm about the virus, did
it has led to unnecessary cross-infection within hospitals, as well as in families and communities.
The Chinese Supreme Court said in a January 28 comment that people listened to Lis’s warnings that they could “take measures such as wearing masks, strictly disinfecting and avoiding going to the wildlife market.”
Instead unaware of the health risks, many doctors and nurses wore disposable masks just to cure the potential coronavirus patients early in the outbreak. Ivan Hung, head of the infectious diseases division of the University of Hong Kong, said that those sun masks are “definitely inadequate” in the fight against the virus.
“Basically, medical personnel should wear N95 masks, protective goggles or face shields and protective suits not only in isolation wards, but also in emergency wards and medical wards – practically wherever you can get in touch with coronavirus patients.” he said.
Li, 34, was an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital. He later passed away after contracting the virus unknowingly from a patient on January 10, sparking an explosion of pain and indignation, as well as requiring freedom of speech. “I was wondering why official government warnings still said there was no human-to-human transmission and that there were no infections for healthcare professionals,” said Li in a post
Second a study
of the first 425 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wuhan published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, seven health workers in Wuhan had already shown symptoms of infection between January 1 and 10.
But on January 11, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission he was still insisting
that “so far, no infection has been found among medical personnel,” reiterating that there had been no “clear evidence for human-to-human transmission.”
The World Health Organization also stated in its statements January 14
that China had not reported cases of infection among health workers.
It was not until January 20, when Zhong Nanshan, a government-appointed respiratory expert, told the state-run CCTV broadcaster that the new coronavirus could spread from person to person, which was revealed to be an infection by healthcare professionals.
As evidence of human transmission, Zhong, an 83-year-old doctor known to have battled the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic 17 years ago, revealed that 14 patients in a hospital had been infected by one patient.
The next day, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission admitted a declaration
that as of January 21, “a total of 15 health workers have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus” and another is suspected of being infected. One of them was in serious condition, the statement added.
Since then, however, the commission has not announced any updates on the number of confirmed or suspected cases among the city’s hospital staff, although Chinese media have published numerous reports offering a look at the true extent of infections in hospitals.
Diffusion of the problem
Health worker infection is not only taking place in designated Wuhan hospitals, it is also being observed in other facilities and cities in China.
In the Wuhan Mental Health Center, the largest psychiatric hospital in Hubei province that is
should not cure coronavirus patients, 50 patients and 30 medical staff were diagnosed with the new coronavirus after being infected with crusaders within the hospital, the state-run China Newsweek announced
last week, citing multiple sources in the hospital.
When the hospital director was reached for comment on the cases, he told China Newsweek: “We now have discipline requirements and we can no longer accept telephone interviews”, says the report
Meanwhile, the virus has spread to all regions of mainland China, including the Xinjiang border and the remote Tibet region. The authorities in Beijing and the provinces of Guangxi, Jiangxi and Hainan have reported individual cases of infection among hospital staff, involving a total of two dozen people.
By Tuesday, a fund set up by ByteDance, the Beijing-based startup behind the popular short video platform TikTok, had already sponsored 190 infected doctors, including five dead, to CNN to help health workers affected by the coronavirus.
Prior to Friday, the NHC had not provided a count of infected healthcare workers. He eventually released the numbers over two months to the outbreak, in an inter-agency briefing organized by the State Council on the safety of healthcare professionals.
During SARS, the Chinese authorities seemed to become more outspoken
on the infection of medical personnel following an initial attempt to cover up the epidemic. In mid-February 2003, the Guangdong provincial government he had announced
105 of the 305 SARS cases found in the province were health workers. The Ministry of Health, the predecessor of the National Health Commission, also included the number of health workers in its briefings on the number of infections, with subdivisions by provinces.
As of May 30, 2003, a total of 966 health workers had been infected, accounting for 18% of the 5328 cases across China, according to the ministry
For now, the infection rate of healthcare professionals appears to be much lower than during SARS. Tuesday’s 1,716 infected medical staff accounts for only 3.8% of all confirmed cases, the NHC said.
Hung, the professor from the University of Hong Kong, said he was confident that frontline healthcare workers are now equipped with better protective devices than those produced 17 years ago during the SARS epidemic. He also believed that they were baked in factories to meet demand.
“The main problem is what happened at the beginning of the epidemic, which has had repercussions that have lasted to this day,” he said, referring to cross-infection in poorly prepared hospitals.
“When you have no idea what you’re going through, there’s definitely negligence,” he said.