Timely, Preventive Treatment Key to Patient Outcomes
After initially opening on February 1, Wang’s ward had several consecutive patients who had severe blood diseases, such as acute lymphocytic leukemia, severe aplastic anemia, multiple myeloma, and chronic myeloid leukemia, all of whom passed away. But they also saw older patients with hypertension and diabetes ― and even a 94-year-old ― who recovered.
“The doctors do not have magic drugs for patients, but they can at least provide symptomatic treatments, such as fluid and protein supplementation, anti-infection, steroids, and different levels of breathing support,” she said.
Treatment for COVID-19 in China follows the Guidance for Coronavirus Disease 2019, which was released by the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China and which is constantly updated, Wang said.
General treatment guidelines include rest, supportive treatment, antiviral treatment, the provision of adequate nutrition, keeping patients hydrated, monitoring vital signs, and delivering oxygen therapy.
“Treatment is adjusted according to changes in the national diagnosis and treatment plan, but use of abidol, anti-infection drugs, thymosin, acetylcysteine, and alpha-interferon nebulization have remained constant,” Wang said. “Later, chloroquine, Chinese medicine, and trastuzumab were added.” For critical cases, they also provide respiratory and circulation support, she said.
Even after being on the front lines for close to 2 months, Wang can’t say for sure what works and what doesn’t. Some patients who were treated with certain antivirals recovered, she told Medscape Medical News, but at this point it’s hard to tell exactly what led to recovery and whether the same treatments would work for other patients. What is crucial, she said, is the close monitoring of symptoms and the timely use of respirators.
In late January and throughout February, China mobilized. Emergency specialty field hospitals were constructed, makeshift hospitals for mild and suspected cases were created, oxygen tanks were used to address the shortage of oxygen supply in hospitals, ventilators were shipped in, and 42,000 medical workers came to work on the front lines in Wuhan.
By late February, the number of patients discharged from the hospital had gradually increased, and beds began to free up. At that point, patients were largely able to receive timely treatment, Wang said.