The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported this week that global stocks of protective gear are fast depleting as the demand rises to a whopping 100 percent, in the fight against coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. The mask and respirators are not only scarce but their prices have also increased to 20 times their usual charge.
These warnings were voiced by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of WHO, during a briefing on 2019-nCoV. The director general blamed the depleted stockpiles on “inappropriate use of personal protective equipment outside patient care”.
Despite rushed efforts to gather information on the virus, another investigation, just published in the journal JAMA, has reported that 41 percent of the 138 patients of coronavirus under study had contracted the disease in the hospital. This nosocomial (hospital caught) transmission of the infection shows that previously feared single patient transmission is not the cause. So, it can be safely concluded that right now the coronavirus is mainly spreading in hospitals.
This is in line with previous reports from WHO that state that when it comes to preventive control, the priority should be health workers and the people taking care of the sick. The World Health Organization has estimated that frontline health workers in China require most of the protective gear and globally these workers require 7 to 10 percent of total market capacity. However, for other gear, besides masks and respirators, the figure may even be higher.
Tedros also appreciated companies who have taken the step of prioritizing health workers during this tiring time. He stressed that ‘there is a limited stock and we need to make sure we get it to the people who need it most, in the places that need it most. The first priority is health workers’. He advised against stockpiling this gear in countries where transmission rates are low. The DG WHO called for a fair and rational use of supplies and reiterated a need for rebalancing the market.
Just the previous week, general practitioners in Australia raised concerns for the safety of their workers as there was a widespread shortage of masks and other gear.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses containing strains that can cause death in mammals and birds. It typically spreads through airborne droplets of fluids by the infected individuals. However, the spread of this novel strain (now referred to as 2019-nCoV) has been declared an epidemic by WHO just this month.
The novel coronavirus confirmed cases have gone above 60,000 and total death toll has reached 1,357 globally. The rise comes after the definition of confirmed cases has been broadened.
The cases in United States have reached 15, as another American evacuee from Wuhan, China, has been diagnosed with coronavirus this Wednesday. The only previously reported fatalities were from Hong Kong, China and Philippines. However, just today Japan reported its first death from the virus, along with the death of a US citizen who was in China.
The health agencies are suggesting that in order to control the spread of the virus, patients should use face masks, sick health workers should not work, the risky procedures like bronchoscopy and sputum induction should be minimized, triage should be put in place, the flowing air should be controlled for contamination, a close check should be kept on suspected patients, hand washing and respiratory hygiene should be prioritized.