Deadly China virus in France, new cases in US
China and the World Health Organisation are doing their best to prevent the spread of panic — as well as the deadly coronavirus — but first-hand accounts from ground zero suggest the crisis is much worse than previously thought.
In Wuhan, where 26 people have died already and more than 800 are infected, efforts are being made to quarantine the 11-million-strong population.
But hospitals are so overwhelmed that patients coughing up blood are left outside, unable to be treated.
The South China Morning Post spoke to several people in the infected zone including a woman named Xiaoxi, who has taken her sick husband from hospital to hospital “desperate” for help but none is forthcoming.
She said it felt like “doomsday” in the city.
“I have nothing. No protective clothing, only a raincoat, and I am standing outside the hospital in the rain,” she said.
“I am desperate, I have lost count of time and days. I don’t know if we will both live to see the new year.”
The woman told the SCMP her husband was coughing up blood and had a fever 10 days ago but four hospitals had turned him away having run out of space.
“People just keep dying, no one is taking care of the bodies,” she said. “If this goes on like this, we will all be doomed.”
CASES CONFIRMED IN FRANCE, US
France today confirmed two cases of the deadly coronavirus — one in Paris and one in the city of Bordeaux in the country’s southwest.
They are the first two cases on European soil and the French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn believes there will be many more.
“We have two cases,” she said.
“We will probably have other cases.”
The patient hospitalised in Paris is a 48-year-old man who had passed through Wuhan — the city of 11 million people where the virus originated — on his way to France.
“He’s been put in an insulated room so as to avoid any contact with the outside world,” the minister said.
The other patient, a woman, visited China but the minister had very little information about that case.
Health authorities in the US say the patient is in hospital for “infection control” primarily.
Earlier in the week, a man in his 30s in Washington state became the first US patient after he too visited the city at the centre of the global outbreak.
GREAT WALL BEING SHUT DOWN
There are eerie scenes in China as authorities shut down parts of the Great Wall and suspended public transport in 10 cities, effectively stranding millions of people at the start of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Wuhan is in virtual lockdown. Nearly all flights at Wuhan’s airport have been cancelled and checkpoints blocked the main roads leading out of town yesterday.
As the city slides into isolation, pharmacies have begun to run out of supplies and hospitals have been flooded with nervous residents.
The city is rushing to build a 1000-bed hospital by Monday, February 3, state media said.
The facility will be a prefabricated structure on a 25,000sq m lot.
Despite the lockdown, the virus is already spreading further afield.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it had 63 patients under investigation, with two confirmed cases, both in people who had travelled to Wuhan.
After a congressional briefing by health officials, Republican Senator John Barrasso, a former physician, said people in the US with the virus may have been infected as long as 14 days earlier in China.
“We want to try to stop and prevent people from coming to the United States if they have it,” Senator Barrasso told reporters, without providing any details of how that might be accomplished.
Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China.
The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because there are still many unknowns surrounding it, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases. Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and coughing. Most of the fatalities have been in elderly patients, many with pre-existing conditions, the WHO said.
That decision could well be reassessed in coming days as the situation evolves, said Anthony Fauci, the US National Institutes of Health’s top infectious disease official, adding that it was “open to question” whether shutting down travel would have a major effect.
Some experts believe the virus is not as dangerous as the one that caused the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which also began in China and killed nearly 800 people, or the one that caused Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 700 people since 2012.
— with wires