Zhang Jian is the director and doctor of the Department of Respiratory Diseases and Emergency Care at Wuhan Hospital and is the first medical person to discover and report the new coronavirus.
The director of the respiratory and emergency department at Hubei Hospital for Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine conducted an interview at the same hospital for the Xinhua news agency.
Zhang is an experienced doctor at Wuhan Hospital, and she is the first to report a coronavirus case – the hitherto unknown pathogen that attacks humanity, a seemingly ordinary case of an elderly couple in late December.
How did it all start?
On December 26, an elderly couple from a nearby municipality visited a hospital in Hubei for integrated Chinese and Western medicine. The woman’s symptoms were fever, cough and fatigue, which resembled symptoms of the flu or pneumonia, and her husband came to be examined for fatigue because he felt powerless, without energy, said the director of the Department of Respiratory and Emergency Affairs. Because they both felt sick, they were accompanied by their son.
But after the results of their CT scan arrived, the 54-year-old doctor noticed details that were different from the flu or pneumonia.
Zhang’s experience since 2003 when SARS appeared, when she worked as a medical expert examining suspicious patients in Wuhan, has made her sensitive to the signs of an epidemic. After reading the results of the realized CT scan on the older road, she immediately asked for a CT scan from their son.
“Initially, their son refused to be examined. “He didn’t show any symptoms of discomfort, and he thought we were cheating on him to steal his money.”
However, at her insistence, Zhang managed to persuade her son and forced him to be examined. The doctor then obtained evidence that she hoped it would be different: her son’s lungs had the same abnormalities she had seen on his parents’ scan.
“It was unusual for all three members of the family to catch the same infection at the same time, unless it was an infectious infection,” Zhang said in an interview with Xinhua.
Also, one day after the elderly couple reported to the hospital, on December 27, another patient came to the hospital who also developed symptoms of cough and fever, and his CT scan of the lungs looked the same as in the elderly couple.
After taking their blood, the results of the four patients indicated a viral infection. Zhang also tested them for a series of flu (flu) tests. The results of all four were negative.
She then wrote a report to the hospital, which soon submitted it to the central area for controlling infectious diseases and prevention. “The report states that we have discovered a viral infection, most likely infectious,” said the doctor.
Back then, Zhang could not have been the first to report an epidemic that spread the fastest and caused the most extensive infection since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
According to the World Health Organization, to date, April 18, more than 153,822 people worldwide have died from covid-19, which is more than 130% more lethal than the SARS virus, which is also a type of coronavirus.
At that time, knowledge of the virus was scarce. After compiling the report, Zhang restricted access to the ward where the four patients were hospitalized, and asked medical staff to protect themselves.
After three more patients with similar symptoms and lung imaging arrived at the hospital, the alarm went off, prompting a panel discussion on December 29 by 10 medical experts who discussed the seven unusual cases. Their conclusion was that this was an emergency, plus information from two similar cases in other hospitals prompted the hospital to report the cases to municipal and provincial health authorities.
After the report reached the authorities, they ordered an epidemiological investigation the same day. That afternoon, experts from Winuantan Hospital in Wuhan, which is designed to treat infectious diseases, visited the hospital and took six of the seven patients.
On the same day, Zhang ordered all medical staff working in the respiratory and emergency departments to wear masks, a precautionary measure that from the end of December 2019 to the end of January 2020 was believed to help prevent infection.
According to China’s official timeline for events related to the coronavirus, which was published on April 6, 2020, the Municipal Health Commission in Wuhan on December 30 issued an urgent statement to medical institutions under their jurisdiction that the city has infectious pneumonia for unknown reasons.
The National Health Commission sent a working group and a team of experts in the late hours of December 31 to Wuhan to help and guide hospitals with the new unknown infection as they investigate the cause.
Also on December 31, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission posted a statement on its official website about the outbreak of pneumonia for unknown reasons, in which 27 registered cases were reported. The statement also said that the population should not go to closed public spaces and should not gather in groups. The public was also advised to wear face masks when leaving home.