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Doctor adds TCM to outbreak arsenal

By ZHANG YANGFEI in Beijing and WANG XIAODONG in Wuhan | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-02-11 09:27
Liu Qingquan, head of the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine affiliated with Capital Medical University, speaks during an interview in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei province, on Feb 6, 2020. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/]

Editor's note: This series tells the stories of selfless individuals, from medical workers to volunteers, who are bravely fighting the virus outbreak with extraordinary dedication.

Liu Qingquan, head of the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine affiliated with Capital Medical University, has been on the front line of emergency clinical practice throughout his 28-year medical career.

In 2003, when severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, broke out in Beijing, Liu was among the first medical personnel who voluntarily worked with infected patients.

Despite being infected with SARS himself after treating some patients, he still managed to help other medical experts formulate a treatment plan that integrated Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, which greatly contributed to controlling the epidemic.

In January, Liu devoted himself to the treatment of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the epidemic.

"As a doctor, it is my responsibility to analyze the pattern of new contagious diseases. This was the case for me during SARS, H7N9 influenza and the novel coronavirus this year. This is what a doctor does," he said.

Liu first arrived in Wuhan on Jan 21. He is working on analyzing cases of novel coronavirus and researching and formulating plans to treat the contagion with TCM.

He also advises the central government on how to make full use of TCM in treating the novel coronavirus, as well as offering other suggestions on prevention and treatment.

Liu and his colleagues have been studying each confirmed case in recent days. He said one of his patients took 17 days from showing early symptoms to being hospitalized. The patient's condition greatly improved three days after taking traditional Chinese medicine.

"Patients are unfortunate, but they also help us to study the disease to find a cure," he said, adding that more clinical experience is needed to refine the proportions of medications and find different treatment methods for patients of different severity levels.

He said people tend to have a misunderstanding that traditional Chinese medicine is used to treat chronic diseases. But TCM actually was created to treat acute disease and has a long history of handling infectious diseases, he said.

Liu added that by responding to epidemics like the novel coronavirus, TCM practitioners are able to improve theories and techniques.

Liu was in his 30s when he first experienced SARS. At the time, he was director of the Beijing hospital's emergency department and also one of the youngest members on the emergency medicine committee of the Chinese Association of Integrative Medicine.

He received a critically ill patient in March 2003 who was experiencing respiratory failure. Because no one had expected to encounter a SARS patient so soon, all medical staff treating that patient wore ordinary surgical masks.

The patient died hours later, and in the following week, 11 doctors and nurses who had treated the patient, including Liu, developed SARS symptoms. Liu's wife was infected with SARS after visiting him in the hospital and died a few months later.

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