COVID-19 update 17 Feb: 2 Indians onboard Diamond Princess getting treatment, some Chinese patients get better on blood plasma transfusions and more
While there has been an alarming number of deaths, it is important to acknowledge that many people have recovered from the infection as well.
Death toll from COVID-19 continued to climb over the weekend. There are now over 1,750 deaths and 70,000 confirmed cases of COVID infection worldwide. The vast majority of cases are concentrated in Hubei, the epicentre of the virus. Chinese officials have reported deaths in neighbouring provinces as well.
A new diagnostic method, which relies on clinical rather than laboratory tests caused the number of cases to shoot up last Thursday. The clinical method, which involves CT scans showing lung abnormalities, is a faster way to diagnose the disease though it can be inaccurate.
For now, containment and screening remain the first line of defence. Reports from within China have said that officials are going door to door to test people for symptoms and public spaces are still largely empty.
Outside China, the number of infections is around 750. Of these, there has been one death in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines, respectively. Over the weekend, France reported its first death; the first in Europe. The deceased was an 80-year-old man from Hubei who had been admitted to hospital weeks before. His daughter is also infected with the virus but is expected to make a recovery. Further, Egypt reported its first case - this is the first known incident of COVID-19 infection in Africa.
Developments in India
Earlier today, the Indian embassy in China said that India would send a consignment of medical supplies to China as part of a relief effort. A specially chartered plane will travel to Wuhan sometime this week and may have the capacity to bring back some Indians looking to leave the province as well.
China’s health system is under significant strain as it is scrambling to meet the demands of containing the outbreak. The lockdown has meant that there are supply-side constraints on surgical masks, hazmat suits and basic equipment as well.
India, too, is looking at a shortage of drugs in the future. China supplies crucial raw materials for medicines to the country. The viral outbreak has meant a sudden dip in Chinese exports. To combat the future shortage, the government is considering banning the export of 12 types of drugs including antibiotics and vitamins.
So far, India has had three confirmed cases of infection - two of these patients have already been treated and discharged. Further, of the 138 Indians on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which has been docked and quarantined in Japan for over a week, two have tested positive and are undergoing treatment. Outside China, the Diamond Princess has the highest number of confirmed cases of the virus: 355 people have been infected by the virus so far.
Survivors pay it forward
While there has been an alarming number of deaths, it is important to acknowledge that many people have recovered from the infection as well. The mortality rate remains 2-4%, and those with underlying health conditions are more likely to succumb to the disease.
Those who have recovered from the infection and remained symptom-free for 10 days have been asked to donate blood plasma to those still fighting the disease. Doctors working in Wuhan have reportedly said that those who received the plasma were showing better clinical symptoms a day or two after administration.
While this is encouraging, it remains to be seen if it will become an effective treatment method in the future.
For more information, read our article on Coronavirus.
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