'Unknown pneumonia' in Kazakhstan likely COVID-19: WHO, Chinese experts
Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/11 14:54:36
Quickly identifying new viruses a must to contain epidemic
The "unknown pneumonia" reported in Kazakhstan is very likely the coronavirus, a World Health Organization (WHO) official and leading Chinese experts said after reports of a mystery "pneumonia" more deadly than the coronavirus caused concern that a new virus was emerging along China's northwest border.
Zhang Wenhong, a Shanghai-based infectious disease expert, said on Saturday that the unidentified pneumonia cases are highly likely COVID-19 infections and suggested Kazakhstan expand its ability to identify new pathogens.
Zhang made the statement on his personal Sina Weibo account, saying the pneumonia which returns a negative result for COVID-19 via pathogen tests can be categorized as "unknown pneumonia" as per the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) classification.
He also suggested pathogen testing can be faulty and return a negative result for COVID-19.
Similar test results occurred in Wuhan, in Central China's Hubei Province in the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak in the city when the testing capability was insufficient, according to Zhang.
Wang Chen, president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, urged to enhance the pathogen testing capability when he arrived in Wuhan in the early stage of the outbreak, otherwise he believed that a large number of negative tests for the novel coronavirus would result and cause the rapid spread of the virus, Zhang said.
The COVID-19 epidemic in Kazakhstan has entered a period of rapid growth where epidemic data curve is showing sharp ups and downs, indicating that laboratory testing is unstable, Zhang said, noting Kazakhstan needs to quickly increase its COVID-19 testing capacity and adopt sequencing techniques to identify possible new pathogen.
According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) code by the World Health Organization, when symptom of ground-glass opacity was found on lungs CT scans, COVID-19 can be diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically, but the result is not laboratory confirmed.
Chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) said the "unknown pneumonia" in Kazakhstan is probably COVID-19.
Wu ruled out the possibility of new respiratory infectious disease during the summer. "The COVID-19, occurred in winter, same as SARS, influenza and avian flu."
Judging from its medical treatment and testing capabilities, and the mortality of the reported "unknown pneumonia" which is also within the range of COVID-19, the "unknown pneumonia" reported in Kazakhstan is likely COVID-19, Wu said.
Michael Ryan, executive director of the Health Emergencies Program of the WHO, said at a regular briefing on Friday that the pneumonia cases reported in Kazakhstan could be COVID-19 but the WHO "keeps an open mind" to other possibilities.
The WHO is working with authorities in Kazakhstan to investigate the pneumonia, the official said.
Kazakhstan's international news agency Kazinform said on Thursday that the number of patients affected by the pneumonia in Kazakhstan "is two to three times higher than that of COVID-19." The report was deleted on Friday.
Citing Kazakh media reports, China's embassy in Kazakhstan said that an unknown pneumonia had caused 1,772 deaths in the first six months of the year, with 628 in June alone and including Chinese citizens. That is many more deaths than Kazakhstan has reported from COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan on Friday refuted reports about an unknown pneumonia in the country.
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