WHO urges countries to stock up on ventilators to combat coronavirus

Medical staff treat a patient infected by the coronavirus at the Red Cross hospital in Wuhan on March 1, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Sunday (March 1) urged all countries to prepare for caring for patients severely sickened by the deadly new coronavirus by stocking up on ventilators.

The UN health agency stressed in its latest situation report on Covid-19 that "oxygen therapy is a major treatment intervention for patients with severe Covid-19".

"All countries should work to optimise the availability of pulse oximetres and medical oxygen systems," it said.

Worldwide, nearly 3,000 people have been killed and more than 88,000 infected across some 60 countries since the virus was first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

But WHO noted that the virus appears to particularly hit those over the age of 60 and people already weakened by other illness.

Among the nearly 45,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in China by Feb 24, only 2.1 per cent were under the age of 20, WHO said.

The agency noted that most people with the illness only experience mild symptoms, while around 14 per cent suffer severe disease like pneumonia and five percent become critically ill.

The mortality rate in the outbreak appears to be between two and five per cent.

The UN health agency stressed the importance of early recognition, followed by "implementation of appropriate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures; provision of symptomatic care for those with mild illness; and optimised supportive care for those with severe disease".

WHO warned that mortality among those suffering with critical illness had been reported at over 50 per cent, emphasising that rapid "critical care interventions such as lung protective ventilation should be optimised".

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