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Senior Doctor in Wuhan Outbreak Dies from Coronavirus

Liu Zhiming is the eighth frontline health-care worker to die from COVID-19, and hundreds more have been infected.

Lisa Winter
Feb 18, 2020

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Neurosurgeon Liu Zhiming, who served as the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, died from COVID-19 earlier today (February 18) at age 51, China Daily reports. The hospital is one of seven within the region specified to treat patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 and Liu had been caring for them since the beginning of the outbreak in December.

“Unfortunately he became infected and passed away at 10:54 Tuesday morning after all-out efforts to save him failed,” the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission explains in a statement, according to news reports. Liu made “important contributions in the work of fighting and controlling” the virus.

Liu is the eighth frontline health-care worker to die from the virus during the current outbreak. Nurse Liu Fan, who also worked at Wuchang Hospital, died last week, and Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist whose early warnings of the outbreak were silenced by government officials, died February 7. 

As of February 11, there have been 1,716 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among health-care workers in the Wuhan region, but The Washington Post reports that the number could be as high as 3,000.

This large number of medical staff members who have contracted the virus might indicate a failure in containment policies or even that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is being spread more easily. The Associated Press reports the commission is “highly concerned” by this number. 

“There are risks—there simply aren’t enough resources,” Yu Yajie, an administrator at Wuhan Central Hospital, tells The New York Times. Yu, who is currently bedridden after becoming infected, has said that a lack of supplies has forced workers to reuse single-use items, make repairs to masks and goggles using tape, and even don plastic bags in lieu of proper foot coverings.

Lisa Winter is the social media editor for The Scientist. Email her at lwinter@the-scientist.com or connect on Twitter @Lisa831.

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