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Fruitful dialogue between China and UMS on COVID-19

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) has received eight medical experts from China as part of their visit to Sabah.

Taking advantage of this visit, a dialogue session was held between China’s medical experts and UMS physicians, specifically on their experience with COVID-19 and effective treatment methods for dealing with pandemics that are currently worldwide.

Prof Datuk ChM. Dr Taufiq Yap Yun Hin, UMS Vice-Chancellor, welcomed the delegation and regarded the visit as a valuable tribute to UMS especially to the COVID-19 UMS task force which has played a vital role in ensuring UMS remains safe and avoided from COVID-19 infection.

Team of medical experts from China

The team of China medical experts consisted of specialists in the field of infectious disease, public health and psychology.

1.Guangdong provincial hospital of traditional Chinese medicine vice president: professor Dr Li Jun

2. Associate Chief Physician of Intensive Care Unit Dr Wen Miaoyun

3. Nosocomial infection control director Dr Zhang Youping.

4. Associate Chief Physician of Guangdong Disease Control and Prevention Centre Dr Liu Tao.

5. Guangdong Public Health Institute assistant chief virologist Dr Sun Jiufeng.

6. Associate Chief Physician of Respiratory and Critical Medicine Department Dr. Yang Shifang.

7. Associate Chief Physician of Infectious Diseases Department , Dr. Luo Xiaodan.

8. Senior Psychologist of Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital and Dr Liu Xiangxin.

These experts were sent by the China National Health Commission to Malaysia to share their experiences with Malaysian physicians including UMS on China’s experience in managing and treating COVID-19.

UMS was represented by the Dean of Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMSH), Prof. Dr. Mohammad Saffree Jeffree, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UMS Hospital, Prof. Dr. Helen Benedict Lasimbang, Director of the Biotechnology Research Institute (BRI), Dr. Zarina Binti Amin. Also present were Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Prof. Madya Ts. Dr. Ramzah Dambul, and Prof Dr Ho Chong Mun, Director of the International Center for Global Engagement and Engagement, Permanent Secretary of Sabah Health and People’s Wellbeing, Datuk Janet Chee, as well as representatives from Sabah’s Chief Minister’s Department, Sabah State Department of Health and Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH). 

More than 40 FMHS’s specialists from various backgrounds including internal medicine, emergency, public health, anesthesiology, laboratory specialists and nursing, attended the dialogue session through online teleconferencing. 

China shared experiences in dealing outbreak and the management.

During the 80-minute dialogue session, various questions were highlighted to the Chinese experts on their experiences in dealing with the outbreak of the virus and management of positive COVID-19 patients.

Some of the issues raised include the use of traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) such as herbs in treating COVID-19 positive cases. 

Traditional and Complementary medicine works for Covid-19?

According to Prof Dr Li Jun, the history of TCM in China has been around for thousands of years, and all TCM insights are based solely on human studies. Therefore, they have extensive knowledge of TCM and how it works better in humans. 

During the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Wuhan, almost all options on modern medicine reached a dead end, so the President of China decided to deploy the TCM team to Wuhan and treat these patients.

While undergoing treatment with herbs, they found that patients with COVID-19 did not experience a worse deterioration, seeing reduced hospitalization rate and blood status successfully changed from positive to negative.

The essential observation showed that none of the COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms experienced worsening symptoms after receiving TCM treatment.

The best tests on Covid-19 samples?

Dr. Sun Jiufeng, Associate Chief Technician in Virology and also the Deputy Director of the Provincial Public Health Institute, Guandong Provincial Disease Control and Prevention Center, recommended the use of ‘reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction’ (RT-PCR) in conducting diagnostic tests on COVID-19 samples because it is the only reliable current test to determine if the patient is positive. 

However, they also do virus culture, and gene sequencing for viruses to determine if the patient is positive for COVID-19.

Both of these alternative methods are not widely used because they require very selective conditions before tests can be conducted, and these methods are more focused towards research. 

The origins of Covid-19?

In regards to whether the COVID-19 virus that infected humans was originating from bats, Chinese experts explained that sequencing of the virus gene was almost identical to that of the virus gene from the bats.

However, as they gathered more data on viral gene sequencing, not only bats but pangolin have similar viral gene sequences. 

Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether the COVID-19 outbreak from Wuhan was actually from bats.

For any virus from any animal sources to be contagious, including bats, it does not usually infect the humans directly.

Instead, the infection has to be transmitted through a vector before the virus enters the human body.

When this group of Chinese experts was asked about the challenges of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, the only failure they faced was at the beginning of the outbreak. It seems as though no one knows or understands this disease or virus. 

However, once they have identified the viral sequencing gene, they could quickly identify the transmission method and prevent further spread. Yet, this could only be done at sometime after the outbreak has started.

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