Chengdu, China – As the coronavirus spreads to every continent except Antarctica and the death toll climbs above 3,000, scientists and doctors around the world are rushing to find a way to cure the disease, COVID-19, before it infects more people and poses an even bigger challenge to global health.
The progress made by the Chinese health workers in treating the disease offers hope: more than half the patients in China where the outbreak first originated late last year have reportedly been discharged, reducing the remaining number of confirmed cases to less than 35,000.
China has been touting the recovery rate and offering to provide medical help to other countries in need. Foreign Minister Wang Yi called his counterparts in the hard-hit countries of Italy and Iran at the weekend to offer assistance.
Most of those who have recovered only suffered mild symptoms of the disease, but the mortality rate among the elderly and those whose infection progresses to the critical stage remains high.
That remains a significant challenge for medical workers treating COVID-19 patients, according to a doctor working at one of the leading hospitals in Wuhan who requested anonymity because the hospital management had banned its medics from talking to the media.
The overall mortality rate among the infected is approximately 2.3 percent in China. However, according to a study on early samples that was published in The Lancet, a UK-based medical journal last week the disease killed 61.5 percent of the critically ill.
“The normal procedure of treating pneumonia, such as using ventilators, putting the patients on antiviral and antibacterial treatment and using steroids, has been proven relatively ineffective in treating patients reaching the last stage of the disease,” the doctor told Al Jazeera.
“The unsatisfactory supply of ECMO machines and effective drugs contributed to the high mortality rate,” the doctor continued, referring to the machine that provides cardiac and respiratory support to patients whose heart and lungs are failing.