February 17, 2020 11:33 am

Scared & Exposed: Rise In Virus Cases Among China’s Medics

CHENGDU, CHINA - Working long, intense hours, Liu was one of the first healthcare workers to come to the front line to fight the coro­navirus outbreak that has killed at least 1,770 people and infected 70,548 others in mainland China.

For days, she helped dispense medicine and administer intrave­nous therapy to infected patients at a crowded hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.

Then on January 26, just three days after Wuhan was placed under a lockdown, she developed a dry cough and started to get a fever.

Liu could not remember ex­actly how and when she might have contracted the virus. But by the time she had received her test results, her body temperature had been hovering above 38.5 degrees Celsius (101.3 Fahrenheit) for over four days.

“When I was admitted to the hospital, a colleague of mine burst into tears and said she was so scared and so tired,” said Liu, who asked Al Jazeera to identify her only by her last name.

“At that time, we already had at least 150 colleagues who had either confirmed or suspected to have been infected - we’re all very scared.

“Every time someone comes into the ward, I’d try to hold my breath and not talk, because I’m afraid that the virus would spread that way,” said Liu.

“Getting them infected is the last thing I want to do now.”

1,716 health workers infected

For the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus out­break, China’s National Health Commission reported on Febru­ary 14, that at least 1,716 health workers had been infected while treating patients with the virus. This has raised concerns about the capability of the government to protect the caregivers in direct contact with the afflicted.

Zeng Yixin, the deputy direc­tor of China’s health commission said during a news conference on Friday that infected medical workers comprise 3.8 percent of all those who have contracted the virus across the country.

He told the public the number would not rise as China was in­creasing its efforts to ensure that supplies of protective equipment for medics would be adequate. However, the high number of coronavirus deaths in China has already set off warning bells in the medical community.

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