Coronavirus death toll may be higher as those who died before being tested aren't considered victims: Expert

A medical technician from a Wuhan hospital has said that patients who show symptoms often have to wait for hours for the test which detects the virus. Hence, if the patient dies before being diagnosed, it is not registered as having died from coronavirus

                            Coronavirus death toll may be higher as those who died before being tested aren't considered victims: Expert
A patient being moved into the new, 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan (AP)

The number of people who have taken ill and have died owing to the Wuhan coronavirus could be much higher than what is being officially reported. This is according to a Wuhan medic who claims that patients who died before being tested or diagnosed are not considered victims.

“I think there are many more infections and deaths from coronavirus than have been officially reported. When preliminary tests determine that a patient has a lung sickness, the nucleic acid test (NAT), which detects viruses, cannot always be carried out because the waiting list is too long. The patient is therefore not diagnosed,” Jiesi Luo (not his actual name), a medical technician at a hospital in Wuhan, told DW. 

“Furthermore, if someone dies from the lung sickness and has not taken the NAT test, the fatality is not statistically registered as having been caused by the coronavirus,” he said. According to DW, he declined to give his name due to security concerns.

Current estimates released by China’s National Health Commission shows that 490 people have died in China, and 24,324 have been sickened within the country by the novel coronavirus. There still remained 23,260 suspected cases and 3,219 patients in serious condition. “So far, 252,154 people have been identified as having had close contact with infected patients. 185,555 are now under medical observation. On February 4, 18,457 people were freed from observation,” says the Commission.

A recent Lancet study claimed that the virus could have already infected over 75,800 people in Wuhan, suggesting that Chinese authorities may have a lower tally. 

Soldiers build beds in a convention center that has been converted into a temporary hospital in Wuhan. (Chinatopix via AP)

In the interview, Luo told DW that patients who show symptoms, often have to wait for hours before they receive treatment. He claimed that the emergency number 120 is “totally overwhelmed” and no longer works. He said that people have been forced to walk to the hospital.

“They are prescribed medicine and sent home to self-isolate. The waiting rooms are full of people coughing. Healthy people who have to wait in these conditions risk infection. It takes a long time to get to another hospital. If someone doesn't own a car, they depend on taxis, but only two taxis are officially assigned to each housing block,” he says in the interview.

According to AP, one man, Fang Bin, said he saw wards so crowded during a visit to the city's No. 5 Hospital on Saturday that some patients were forced to sit on the ground.

To treat the thousands of patients, China has rushed to build hospitals and converted a gymnasium, exhibition hall and cultural center in Wuhan.  Patients were being moved into a new, 1,000-bed hospital with prefabricated wards and isolation rooms, reports AP.  

“A 1,500-bed hospital, also specially built, opens in days. The hospitals made from converted public spaces to treat patients with mild symptoms have a total of 3,400 beds, the simple cots placed in tight rows in cavernous rooms without any barriers between them,” says AP. 

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.