Chinese expert addresses common concerns about COVID-19
Updated 10:15, 15-Feb-2020
By Wu Guoxiu

Doctors at Beijing Ditan Hospital in the Chinese capital are treating novel coronavirus patients in critical condition. I had a chance to visit the hospital on Thursday and speak with the head of the Department of Emergency and Infectious Diseases, who plays down the fears many people have about the disease, adding that normal preventative measures are sufficient outside the virus-hit Wuhan City. 

New confirmation criteria helping patients get timely treatment

Clinically diagnosed cases across central China's Hubei Province have been included in new reports since Thursday. 

Dr. Wang Linghang, director of the Department of Emergency and Infectious Diseases at Beijing Ditan Hospital, said according to the previous criteria, infected cases of the COVID-19 were confirmed by nucleic acid test and patients had to wait for a long time. However, clinically diagnosed cases can ensure an earlier treatment of patients. 

"We need to admit all the confirmed patients in hospital so that they can be treated in a timely manner. This new diagnosis criteria is now in the revised edition of practice guidelines," he said.

Read more:

Coronavirus: What are 'clinically diagnosed cases,' and what's behind the surge in Hubei?

No need to rush to hospital with mild symptoms if outside Wuhan

Wang also addressed a popular concern: Should one see a doctor in case of only mild cough and abnormal breathing?

"It depends," he said.

He advised people in Wuhan to see a doctor immediately even in case of mild symptoms. But in other cities, he said there's no need to panic. "You need to observe yourself for one to two days. Because this is also the season of flu and common cold. These three diseases can manifest similar symptoms," he added.

Domestic hygiene sufficient if outside Wuhan

As people are resuming work, or at least have to go out for food, Dr. Wang said the first thing one must do after returning home is to wash hands. Other than that, thorough disinfection is not necessary if one is not in Wuhan. 

"One suggestion is just hang your clothes you wear outside just beside your door. And after that wash your hands, and then you can walk around your home," he stressed.

More evidence needed to confirm 'cytokine storm'

Some reports say that some patients with mild symptoms at first saw their conditions worsen very quickly, perhaps due to a "cytokine storm." Wang responded, "Cytokine storm is a term used to describe sudden cytokine increase which can damage organs. We noticed this phenomenon has manifested in other diseases as well, such as SARS. This time when we found some patients with coronavirus, we tried to explain why some patients showed mild symptoms at first but later became critical."

"We tried to explain this phenomenon using cytokine storm, but we need more evidence. We need to test a series of cytokine. If we truly see the cytokine increase we could use cytokine storm to explain the suddenly worsened conditions. We need more clinical evidence for this phenomenon," he concluded.