The team of medical professionals says that they may have contracted the illness at their hospital from around 40 percent of the patients they have treated with the new coronavirus. The staff works at a Wuhan University hospital in the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak.
A patient in the surgical department was concluded to have spread the disease to 10 health care workers, according to the paper that was authored by doctors at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University. This was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Friday.
This highlighted the high level of danger within hospitals during the first phase of the epidemic. Apart from this,17 patients who were hospitalized for other reasons were also diagnosed with the coronavirus.
A total of 138 patients caught the virus in a period spanning Jan 1 to Jan 28, with hospital-associated transmission accounting for 41 percent of all cases.
Among the cases were 57 people who were medical staff or patients initially hospitalized for other reasons.
This was hours following the death of the Chinese doctor raising the alarm about the possibility of dying from pathogen from coronavirus. This struck an outpouring of grief and anger over a worsening crisis that has now killed more than 630 people.
The medical team published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday. In the 40 infected health care workers in the JAMA study, 31 worked on general wards, seven in the emergency department, and two in the ICU.
The late Dr. Li Wenliang, 34, talked about the new coronavirus to colleagues on December 30 in Wuhan but was later among several people summoned by the police for spreading rumors. This person acquired the disease while treating a patient.
Aside from having symptoms such as high fever and a sense of fatigue, the researchers revealed that 10 percent of the patients either had atypical symptoms such as diarrhea or complained of nausea.
It was a difficult undertaking to screen patients with symptoms not previously associated with the virus. It was estimated that each patient infects on average 2.2 others.
According to Michael Head, a global health expert at the University of Southampton in a comment to the UK's Science Media Centre, some patients are likely to be far more infectious than others and this creates further difficulties in managing their cases.
Hospital staff are overworked and lack enough protective gear, the deputy governor of Hubei province admitted Thursday.
An important feature of the novel coronavirus is the rapid human-to-human transmission among people in close contact, the team said.
The global death toll for the new virus in China has overtaken the 2002-3 SARS epidemic, which also began in the country that killed 774 people worldwide.
The number of confirmed infections rose to 37,198, said China's National Health Commission.
Eighty-nine deaths and 2,656 new cases surfaced in the preceding 24 hours.
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