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.
The death came the same day Chinese officials released new data showing the new virus could be 20 times more deadly than the flu.
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 a 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 been in mainland China.
Total infections rose Tuesday to more than 73,000, all but a few hundred in mainland China.
Study: Virus far more deadly than flu
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention put the overall death rate for the virus at 2.3%. The season’s flu death rate in the U.S. thus far is about 0.1%, according to the U.S. CDC.
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. Men are more likely to die than women. 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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Shortages of crucial medical supplies possible
The Food and Drug Administration said it has pulled inspectors from China because of virus concerns and warns that the U.S. might face shortages of “critical medical products” if the outbreak persists. The federal agency halted inspections of drug and device factories after the State Department warned against travel to China. The FDA has faced congressional scrutiny for its oversight of overseas factories after high-profile recalls of blood-pressure-lowering medications and reports revealing fewer overseas inspections in recent years.
Cruise ship cases exceed 500
Coronavirus continued to sweep through the quarantined Princess Cruises ship Diamond Princess, docked and quarantined at the port in Yokohama, Japan. As of Tuesday, 542 cases of the virus had been identified among the 3,711 passengers and crew. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, has said the quarantine on the ship “failed.”
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Contributing: Ryan Miller, Ken Alltucker and Julia Thompson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press