China calls on virus survivors to donate blood plasma in the hopes of creating a treatment.
A senior health official in Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak, has called on residents who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood plasma, believing their naturally produced antibodies could be used to treat patients who are still sick.
Dr. Zhang Dingyu, the director of the Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, made his appeal on Thursday after Chinese researchers said they believed such antibody treatments could help people recover from the virus.
The search for a drug capable of treating or curing the virus has frustrated researchers, as rates of infection and deaths continue to mount.
The government is currently prescribing a combination of anti-viral drugs and traditional Chinese medicine. But on Thursday, China National Biotec Group, a state-owned company under the Ministry of Health, said it found that administering a round of human antibodies from the survivors to more than 10 critically ill patients caused inflammation levels to drop significantly after 12 to 24 hours of treatment.
The company called the use of plasma “the most effective method, which can significantly reduce the mortality of critically ill patients.”
Benjamin Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong, said the use of antibodies to treat the coronavirus is “a really good idea,” noting that it’s been used before in influenza pandemics. But he cautioned that it needed to be proven in a controlled trial.
“It’s basically transferring immunity from a patient who has recovered to a patient still fighting the infection, and then helping them to recover,” he said.
China records more than 5,000 new cases in 24 hours.
Numbers continued to climb after the government changed the criteria by which it tracks confirmed cases. China on Friday reported 5,090 new coronavirus cases and 121 new deaths in the previous 24 hours.
The authorities said a total of 63,851 people have been infected by the coronavirus and at least 1,380 people have been killed by the disease. Most of the cases occurred in Hubei, the center of the outbreak, which recorded 4,823 new cases and 116 deaths over the same period.
The tally in Hubei jumped most dramatically on Thursday after the authorities changed the diagnostic criteria for counting new cases. The government now takes into account cases diagnosed in clinical settings, including the use of CT scans, and not just those confirmed with specialized testing kits.
Japan announces $96 million in emergency funds to help deal with the fallout.
Japan said Friday that it would allocate about $96 million in emergency funds to help deal with the fallout from the coronavirus, a decision that comes after the country confirmed its first death related to the illness.
The Japanese cabinet approved the modest funds to strengthen countermeasures against the disease and provide support for small and medium sized businesses that are struggling with low sales amid a drop in visitors from China, the main source of tourism in Japan.
Japan has the largest number of positive diagnoses of the coronavirus outside of China. And it has been struggling to deal with the management of 3,700 people who were exposed to the illness while aboard the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that is currently under quarantine in Yokohama.
Hundreds of people have tested positive for the illness and been taken off the ship and transported to hospitals, while many more remain in isolation on the ship, where they are expected to stay until the end of the quarantine period on Feb 19.
The cabinet’s decision to approve the emergency funds comes after the death of a woman in her 80s in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture and the announcement of several more cases that do not appear to be directly linked to the cruise ship or individuals who had recently traveled to China.
Friday morning, authorities said they had confirmed a new case: a man in his 70s in Wakayama Prefecture who had visited a hospital where a doctor who was also infected had worked. A colleague of the doctor and another patient had also come down with symptoms of pneumonia and were being monitored, officials said.
The U.S. says it will approve aid to North Korea to fight the coronavirus there.
The United States said on Friday that it would approve humanitarian assistance to North Korea to help international aid agencies fight the coronavirus there, amid fears that the impoverished country may be hiding an outbreak.
North Korea has not reported any cases of the new coronavirus. But in the past week, some South Korean news reports, citing unnamed sources within the secretive North, said there had been deaths in the country that were suspected to be related to the virus. The reports could not be confirmed.
North Korea shares a 930-mile border with China, where the coronavirus emerged, and has taken aggressive steps to prevent its spread, including suspending all flights and trains to and from China.
North Korea’s public health system remains dysfunctional, and the travel restrictions have made it more difficult for the North to buy or smuggle medicine, goods and other supplies from China. Relief organizations have complained that American-led U.N. sanctions have blocked them from quickly approving aid.
This week, the Red Cross called for a sanctions exemption allowing it to transfer money to its office in North Korea, describing it as “a lifesaving intervention.” It cited an urgent need for personal protective gear and testing kits to prepare for an outbreak in North Korea.
The United States has similarly expressed alarm, saying it would not stand in the way of such aid.
“The United States is deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the North Korean people to a coronavirus outbreak,” Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement on Thursday.
She added that Washington encourages American and international aid groups to “counter and contain the spread of coronavirus” in the North.
Indonesia denies Chinese traveler caught virus while in Bali.
A Chinese tourist who showed signs of the coronavirus after returning home from Bali, Indonesia, did not contract the disease while on holiday and must have been infected later, Indonesian health officials said on Friday.
Officials said they have tested 70 people suspected of being infected and they were all found to be negative. Among the suspected cases, 14 were on Bali, a popular tourist destination that welcomed 2 million Chinese visitors a year before the coronavirus outbreak.
“No case in Indonesia has been found,” said Ketut Suarjaya, head of the Bali provincial health office.
The Chinese tourist, who visited Bali from January 22 to 28, was determined to have the virus on February 5, he said.
Health officials checked the tourist’s hotel and found no other cases of infection. They were continuing to trace the tourist’s activities in Bali, he said.
But he noted that the 14-day incubation period for the illness had elapsed without any cases of infection being found.
Reporting and research was contributed by Sui-Lee Wee, Choe Sang-Hun, Richard C. Paddock, Amber Wang, Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Yiwei Wang, Claire Fu, Miriam Jordan and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs.
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