A new study published on Friday reveals new disturbing details about the novel coronavirus and why experts may have missed early cases of the disease. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study reveals that 41% of the first 138 coronavirus patients in Wuhan, China caught the disease not by person-to-person transmission but by nosocomial or hospital-related transmission.

As the coronavirus outbreak started to spread rapidly in the epicenter of the disease in early January, 40 health workers and 17 patients who were confined for other reasons were presumed to have caught the novel coronavirus in hospitals. 26% of the infected patients developed complications and needed intensive care, while 4.3% succumbed to the disease in just a matter of days.

The result of the study implies that the novel coronavirus does not only spread when an infected person transmits the infection to other people. The broad spectrum of infection in hospitals makes it much easier for the disease to spread and circulate undetected for a period of time, putting everyone at risk. True enough, many of the initial patients of the novel coronavirus were health care workers in Wuhan.  

While the study offers new insights into why the coronavirus infects even those who have not had any contact with infected patients, researchers said it has some limitations. “Hospital-related transmissions of infections could not be definitely proven but was suspected and presumed based on timing and patterns of exposure to infected patients and subsequent development of infection,” wrote the researchers.

Despite that, some countries have already advised their doctors to err on the side of caution. In the U.K., medics who conduct aerosol generating procedures such as bronchoscopy and inserting and removing tubes are only allowed to do these procedures in a room from which no air can escape. They are also required to wear full-body protective gear, including masks and goggles, and leave the room empty for 20 minutes before ventilating it to replace the air inside.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Hubei Province in China reported an additional 94 deaths and 1,638 new cases of the deadly coronavirus.

corona virus The novel coronavirus has already infected thousands in China. World Health Organization (WHO) / Facebook