The director of a Chinese hospital at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak became one of its victims Tuesday despite “all out” efforts to save his life, Chinese health officials said.
Liu Zhiming, president of Wuhan Wuchang Hospital in Hubei province, died of coronavirus-related pneumonia, China Daily reported. The hospital, one of the seven designated for the epidemic in Wuhan, treated thousands of people each day.
Liu, 51, was a leading figure in neurosurgery, the newspaper said. The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said Liu made “important contributions in the work of fighting and controlling” the virus, known as COVID-19.
“Unfortunately he became infected and passed away at 10:54 Tuesday morning after all-out efforts to save him failed,” the commission said.
His death was one of 98 on Tuesday attributed to the virus, pushing the global death toll to 1,875, including 1,789 in Hubei. All but a handful of global, virus-related deaths have occurred in mainland China.
Total infections rose Tuesday to more than 73,000, all but a few hundred in mainland China.
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The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention put the overall death rate of the COVID-19 virus at 2.3%, compared to the season’s flu death rate of 0.1%.
Still, the coronavirus death rate is far below that of severe acute respiratory syndrome – SARS – which swept across China almost two decades ago. SARS death rate was almost 10%, although less than 10,000 SARS cases were ever confirmed.
The Chinese study also found that more than 80% of the cases have been mild, with the sick and elderly most at risk. The report suggests the outbreak peaked in late January.
Lauren Gardner, a Johns Hopkins University civil engineering professor who spearheaded a mapping website for the coronavirus, says it’s too early in the outbreak to estimate mortality rates. The death rate is likely “much lower” than current estimates, she said.
“We don’t know how many actually cases exist,” she said. “Our reporting to date is biased by the severe cases that actual seek medical attention, but there are likely many mild cases that are not reported because these individuals don’t seek medical care.”
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Contributing: Ryan Miller and Julia Thompson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press