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How dangerous is the COVID-19 infection?

Researchers studied the symptoms and characteristics of patients infected with the COVID-19 virus.

With tens of thousands of cases of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, in China, an increase in the spread of COVID-19 infection to other countries is now being seen.

Researchers from Zhejiang University in China recently performed a review of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in China in January 2020. The researchers’ aim was to better understand the disease, its symptoms, its treatments, and associated risks.

Sixty-two patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 were included in the review. All these patients were admitted to the hospital and were interviewed to determine how they might have been exposed to the disease. Researchers were especially interested in whether the patients had been exposed to anyone from Wuhan, China, where the disease is believed to have originated.

The researchers also reviewed all the medical records for each patient and statistically analyzed their data. Blood count, blood chemistry, and identification of respiratory pathogens were completed as part of the patients’ testing regimens. Their medications and treatments were also reviewed and analyzed.

Because the COVID-19 infection typically worsens after ten days, the researchers split the group of patients into those who had symptoms for greater than or less than ten days. The average age of the patients was 41 years old. More than half of them were male. None of them had been to the Hunan seafood market, where the disease was suspected of originating, but all of them had been to or lived in Wuhan.

Although many of the patients already suffered from underlying diseases, regardless of incubation time the symptoms were fever, productive cough, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, and coughing up blood. Approximately one-third of the patients had low white blood cell counts, and 89% had high levels of procalcitonin, a substance produced by the body in response to bacterial infections. Most patients also had abnormal chest x-rays. One patient was moved to the ICU and was put on a ventilator.

Treatment for the patients was either an antiviral, antibiotic, or corticosteroid and gamma globulin treatments. Only one patient had recovered enough to be released from the hospital at the time of the review.

Although the initial symptoms are similar, the researchers determined that the symptoms of the early cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan were different than those in the rest of China. The cases suggest that the disease is transmitted by human to human contact. The patients in this study, however, had less severe symptoms than those in Wuhan.

Because no treatment currently exists, researchers recommend the Chinese government should continue to prevent people from Wuhan from traveling. Public educational programs explaining COVID-19 prevention measures can also help to stop the spread of the disease.

 

Written by Rebecca K. Blankenship, B.Sc.

 

Reference: Xu Xiao-Wei, Wu Xiao-Xin, Jiang Xian-Gao, Xu Kai-Jin, Ying Ling-Jun, Ma Chun-Lian et al. Clinical findings in a group of patients infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) outside of Wuhan, China: retrospective case series BMJ 2020; 368 :m606

Image by saulhm from Pixabay

Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship is a freelance technical writer. She reviews, edits, and authors internal quality documentation required for regulatory compliance. She has twenty years experience in industrial pharma/medical device quality management systems and an honors BSc in chemistry. She is a natural born rule follower and enjoys applying this strength to help others be audit ready to meet regulatory requirements. She also loves learning about the latest scientific discoveries while writing for Medical News Bulletin. Her free time is spent as a full-time mom, encouraging can-do attitudes and cooperation in her three children.
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