Although the novel coronavirus is spreading from Wuhan, China, to the globe more quickly than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-2003, Korean patients are showing signs of stabilizing, experts said.
Even though the new infectious disease has no vaccine or treatment, physicians can treat the confirmed patients with existing antiviral drugs, and the public does not have to panic, they noted.
Among the 15 confirmed patients in Korea, one showed a significant improvement in symptoms and is likely to be discharged soon.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said Monday the second confirmed patient, who has been quarantined in the National Medical Center, fully recovered. The confirmation came 13 days after the patient was diagnosed with the infection with the novel coronavirus on Jan. 23.
The other 14 patients are also in a stabilized state, and there is no severe case, KCDC said.
As of Monday, China’s death toll caused by the fatal virus rose to 361. Earlier on Sunday, the Philippines reported one death, sparking fears of the new coronavirus around the globe.
KCDC said it presumed the fatality rate of the novel coronavirus to be at around 4 to 5 percent, which is much lower than 10 percent of SARS and 30 percent of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). A steady increase in the number of confirmed cases could push down the fatality rate further when the outbreak ceases.
“China’s statistics on death cases show that most of them were either over 60 years old or had a chronic disease. Those who could not overcome the infection with their immunity died,” said Eom Joong-sik, a professor at the Infectious Disease Department of Gachon University Gil Medical Center.
As there is no treatment for the new coronavirus, patients infected with the virus should fight the virus on their own for a certain period, he went on to say. During the process, physicians can help them with conservative treatment and symptomatic therapy to avoid any problem in their key organs, he added.
A physician treating a confirmed patient, who wished to be unnamed, said the patient’s symptoms deteriorated several days ago. He used Kaletra, an HIV treatment, and it worked, he said. The patient has been stabilized since then, the doctor added.
Some worry about a “cytokine storm,” an overproduction of immune cells and their activating cytokines, but no patient is known to have shown such symptom, he explained.
Ma Sang-hyuk, chief of the Pediatrics Department at Changwon Fatima Hospital in South Gyeongsang Province, said although many medical journals have published papers about the new coronavirus, the papers might be inaccurate considering a small number of patient cases and the early stage of the outbreak. Such papers included a case where Ma thought the use of antibiotics was excessive, he said.
“As the new coronavirus outbreak is unprecedented, one or two cases reported in a paper can draw attention. However, we should not be easily swayed by them,” he emphasized.
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