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Health care workers getting sicker from coronavirus than other patients, expert says

Health care workers are putting themselves at risk to stop the spread of the coronavirus and care for those already infected. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reports on the dwindling supply of protective gear doctors and nurses need.

Posted: Mar 19, 2020 3:51 AM
Updated: Mar 19, 2020 3:51 AM

The novel coronavirus seems to hit health care workers harder than others who contract the disease, but it's unclear why, according to disease experts.

"We know the high mortality in older people, but for reasons that we don't understand, front-line health care workers are at great risk for serious illness despite their younger age," Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said during an appearance on CNN's New Day on Monday morning.

"There's nothing more destabilizing" than health care workers falling ill, Hotez told CNN, and he said it will take time to determine what is making them sicker than other patients.

Hotez's comments followed a weekend in which the American College of Emergency Physicians said two doctors suffering from the coronavirus were in critical condition: a physician in his 40s in the state of Washington and a 70-year-old in New Jersey.

It wasn't clear whether the Washington doctor contracted the illness through work or community spread, but he complied with all relevant protocols, ACEP said.

The New Jersey doctor, an emergency preparedness specialist, was admitted to a hospital with upper respiratory issues and was isolated in an intensive care unit as of Saturday, ACEP said.

"I am deeply saddened by this news, but not surprised," ACEP president Dr. William Jaquis said in a written statement Saturday. "As emergency physicians, we know the risks of our calling. We stand united with our colleagues."

Dr. Li Wenliang -- the Wuhan Central Hospital physician who was hailed as a hero for trying to sound the alarm about the novel coronavirus, even as police accused of him of rumor mongering -- died within weeks of being exposed.

After notifying his classmates of seven patients who were quarantined after being diagnosed with the coronavirus in December, the whistleblower died from the illness on February 7.

At the time, the number of cases in China had just topped 31,000. They now stand at more than 170,000 worldwide.

"Maybe it's due to a higher dose of virus they're receiving," Hotez hypothesized in his Monday interview with CNN about why medical workers appear to be at greater risk for serious illness from the coronavirus. "We don't really know. It'll take time to study."

Coronavirus containment and treatment is already taxing governments and hospitals the nation over. Having health care workers sidelined and unable to care for patients presents a conundrum for which there is no Plan B at this point, Hotez said.

He said, "We have to do something to give front line health care workers an extra level of comfort."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 50300

Reported Deaths: 2748
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11920692
Lake5432248
Elkhart347058
Allen2902133
St. Joseph205169
Hamilton1665101
Cass16449
Hendricks1446100
Johnson1325118
Porter80238
Tippecanoe7599
Clark68144
Vanderburgh6816
Madison67264
LaPorte60527
Howard59458
Bartholomew59345
Kosciusko5704
Marshall5308
Noble50128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4783
Boone47444
Delaware46952
Hancock46036
Shelby43525
Floyd40444
Morgan33631
Monroe32928
Grant30926
Dubois2976
Henry29717
Montgomery29720
Clinton2893
White26810
Decatur25532
Dearborn25423
Lawrence25225
Vigo2478
Warrick24329
Harrison21722
Greene19332
Miami1922
Jennings17912
Putnam1728
DeKalb1674
Scott1639
Wayne1536
Daviess15017
Perry1459
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1332
Franklin1278
Ripley1277
Wabash1152
Carroll1132
Gibson1132
Fayette1057
Whitley1045
Newton10010
Starke983
Huntington932
Randolph794
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington681
Knox670
Clay665
Pulaski661
Rush613
Posey550
Owen521
Benton510
Spencer501
Adams491
Sullivan471
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Tipton321
Switzerland300
Martin240
Parke230
Ohio220
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 62856

Reported Deaths: 3032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11433443
Cuyahoga8786393
Hamilton6563207
Lucas2889305
Marion274039
Montgomery237835
Summit2299209
Pickaway221641
Mahoning1907239
Butler176747
Columbiana135060
Stark1196114
Lorain109769
Trumbull103277
Warren94525
Clark79310
Delaware67515
Fairfield64317
Tuscarawas60110
Lake57022
Belmont56722
Medina56632
Licking56012
Miami50331
Portage48759
Wood47451
Clermont4537
Ashtabula44544
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3635
Allen34841
Greene3229
Mercer29510
Erie26722
Holmes2575
Darke25326
Huron2382
Madison2139
Ottawa16624
Sandusky15715
Washington14420
Coshocton1413
Ross1393
Crawford1385
Putnam13415
Hardin12312
Morrow1211
Athens1111
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1052
Muskingum961
Union931
Monroe8917
Hancock851
Lawrence820
Preble821
Hocking809
Clinton791
Guernsey793
Shelby744
Williams742
Logan681
Fulton660
Scioto650
Carroll643
Ashland632
Wyandot625
Brown601
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland491
Van Wert451
Perry411
Seneca402
Henry330
Paulding280
Jackson270
Pike270
Adams251
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble130
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan120
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 79°
Huntington
78° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Decatur
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Van Wert
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
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Breezy, Sunny Saturday
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