Asia Pacific / Science & Health

China's Hubei sees surge in COVID-19 deaths with switch to CT scan diagnoses

Reuters

The death toll in China’s Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak leapt by a record 242 on Thursday to 1,310, with a sharp rise in confirmed cases after the adoption of new methodology for diagnosis, health officials said.

The rise in the toll more than doubled the prior provincial daily record of 103 set on Monday, while the number of new cases soared by 14,840 — also a daily record — to a total of 48,206 cases.

Health officials in the province, the epicenter of the epidemic, said they had started including people diagnosed using the new methods from Thursday. Excluding cases confirmed using the new methods, the number of new cases rose by only 1,508, the official data showed.

The provincial health commission said last week that it would begin recognizing computerized tomography (CT) scan results as confirmation of infections, allowing hospitals to isolate patients more quickly.

It also said it had revised its old data and previous assessments of suspected cases.

Hubei had previously only allowed infection to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days to process and delay treatment. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, carries genetic information allowing for identification of organizms like viruses.

Using CT scans that reveal lung infection would help patients receive treatment as soon as possible and improve their chances of recovery, the commission said.

It could also lead to a spike in the death toll, according to Raina McIntyre, head of biosecurity research at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

“Presumably, there are deaths which occurred in people who did not have a lab diagnosis but did have a CT. It is important that these also be counted,” she told Reuters.

A shortage of RNA test kits in Hubei’s capital Wuhan has been a problem and may have delayed patients from being properly diagnosed and treated, contributing to the spread of the virus in the early days of the outbreak, Reuters previously reported.

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