Coronavirus ground zero: Among first 138 patients, nearly half of infections might have spread in same hospital
A study finds that over 41% of these patients may have contracted the infection in the hospital itself from another infected patient
Coronavirus appears to have spread between people within a hospital during the early days of the outbreak, according to a study that has attempted to track how the infection spreads.
Analyzing the case histories of the first 138 patients diagnosed in a hospital at Wuhan, a team of scientists found that over 41% of them may have contracted the infection in the hospital itself.
What is even more shocking is that one admitted patient at that hospital might have infected over ten health care workers and four other patients. This suggests that the virus could be spreading between people rapidly -- even during the initial days of the outbreak. Health care workers, particularly, are at a higher risk, the study adds.
The finding is a 'heads up' to doctors to keep a watch on these patients, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a recorded interview posted by JAMA.
To trace how these 138 patients caught the infection, the team collected and analyzed the patient treatment data. They specifically wanted to find out whether a group of hospital workers or patients --hospitalized for different reasons -- contracted the infection after being kept in close contact with an infected person, for instance.
The analysis revealed a very troubling picture. One patient, who showed abdominal symptoms, was admitted to the surgical department. However, the said patient went on to infect more than ten health care workers and four other patients in that department, the researchers suspect. Once infected, all the patients showed similar abdominal symptoms. Overall, they say, nearly half of these infections had its origins within the hospital.
The team further also analyzed the data to iron out more details. Of the 138 patients, 36 were admitted to the ICU. The average age of those placed under critical care in the ICU was 66 years.
The virus seems to the older population more with other health complications such as heart disease or diabetes -- which are consistent with previous studies, say the authors.
As for the death rate, these patients showed a higher fatality rate of 4.3%. The reason, the researchers say, is not known and they believe this could change as they gather more data.
The study has a few limitations, including the fact that the team based their findings on "timing and patterns of exposure to infected patients and subsequent development of infection". It does not conclusively establish the role of that hospital in the initial spread.
The study has been published in JAMA.