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Bone Disease is SARS Aftermath
On October 17, Asian Times reporter Zeng Huiyan wrote that although the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic has not yet recurred, a new outbreak of political cover-ups and medical difficulties is coming to light.
Recently, there has been some news circulating inside China indicating that 33% to 50% of Beijing medical personnel who were infected by SARS are suffering from avascular necrosis. Other regions of China are also reporting patients with similar symptoms.
On Friday the Southern Metropolis Newspaper reported that Li Hsiang, head of the Beijing LianHe University Institute of Chinese Medicine, suggested that the four members of the hospital staff who had contracted SARS undergo Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans. The scans revealed that three out of the four individuals had varying degrees of avascular necrosis.
Certain Guangzhou experts had already stated explicitly that large dosages of the anti-viral drug Ribavirin, used in treating SARS, could cause avascular necrosis, a serious orthopedics disease where bone ends weaken and sometimes collapse.
According to the report, Beijing has already reported that many patients who recovered from SARS are suffering from avascular necrosis. Avascular necrosis commonly affects the ends of long bones such as the femur. Other common sites include the ankles, knees, and shoulders. Clinical tests have already proved that using the anti-viral drug Ribavirin to treat primary illness may causes avascular necrosis, affecting the femur 98% of the time, in the other cases affecting the hips, upper arms and ankles.
However, reports from the State-controlled Xinhua Net directly contradicted the Southern Metropolis Newspaper story. Xinhua Net’s report, published on October 13, proclaimed that in the China's Liberation Army General Hospital "the majority of patients who have been restored to health do not have any side-effects.”
The Xinhua reports states that follow-up examinations by the hospital of 200 SARS patients showed normal cellular immunity functions, and healing of lung tissue damaged by SARS or accompanying infections of pneumonia.
The Southern Metropolis Newspaper quoted a famous SARS expert from Guangzhou, who had collaborated with local doctors to examine and treat SARS patients. He conducted clinical observations when doctors gave emergency treatment to patients with SARS (atypical pneumonia) and dangerously high fevers and also during regular follow-up treatment. These doctors used a program of large dosages of the anti-viral drug Ribavirin which continued for several days or longer.
This expert, who chose to remain anonymous, pointed out that overdoses of the anti-viral drug Ribavirin "were certainly necessary to save the lives of patients," but he also acknowledged that "some regions appear to have massively abused the anti-viral drug Ribavirin and have neglected the serious side-effects which subsequently appeared.”
Zheng Chingping, Director of the Experimental Department of the Guangzhou Respiratory Disease Research Institute is currently conducting a systematic survey of approximately 100 SARS patients who were restored to health. He told the reporter that so far there had been no avascular necrosis patients, but he also admitted that his survey did not ask about avascular necrosis.
Hong Kong's Crown Prince of Wales Hospital also performed MRI tests on about 200 recovering SARS patients. They discovered 3%, or approximately eight people, appear to have what is commonly called "dry bone" disease, bone density loss or joint degeneration, and loss of the ability to walk. The cause of the disease is related to heavy dosages of the controversial anti-viral drug Ribavirin and steroids also used in treatment.
Perhaps it is only coincidence that on the same day that the Southern Metropolis Newspaper published its report, Xinhua News Agency also issued another report, which stated that China’s National Health Department had circulated a notice the previous day revising "The treatment and diagnostic plan for contagious SARS." Clearly the Chinese government’s health experts now doubt the appropriateness of their previous SARS treatment methods.
The newly revised medical instruction booklet contains a description relating to drug overdoses causing avascular necrosis side effects: "Osteoporosis and the loss of blood supply to the bones are by no means rare in the recovery period for SARS patients; the connection between the appearance of these symptoms of bone density loss and the outbreak of SARS has not yet been confirmed.”
That report also disclosed that avascular necrosis "mainly occurs to patients with records of long term usage of extremely high doses of the anti-viral drug Ribavirin. The key to prevention lies in strictly controlling the usage of Ribavirin during the treatment process".
The report also states "regarding long-term overdoses of Ribavirin, patients after being discharged from the hospital should have regular check-ups of bone density and also X-Rays of their bones. Those patients with Chronic Joint Disease also should undergo MRI testing if necessary for early detection of the loss of blood supply to the bones.”
The SARS coronavirus is a frightening threat. On top of that, people are being bombarded with conflicting information about possible benefits and dangers of the common course of treatment. No one has really made it clear if the usual treatment brings debilitating side-effects. This uncertainty adds to people’s fear. Who will tell the truth about the side-effects of SARS treatment?
Within a span of five days, the Southern Metropolis Newspaper and Xinhua News Agency published radically different conclusions about the side effects of SARS; which is the truth?
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