Ventilators explained: Their importance in the fight against coronavirus


Ventilators explained: Their importance in the fight against coronavirus
Ventilators are crucial for the care of people who suffer lung failure, which can be one of the complications suffered by patients with severe COVID-19. PHOTO | CNN

In Summary

  • In Kenya, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the World Bank has donated 250 ventilators.
  • There are about 160,000 ventilators available in America but as many as 740,000 could be needed.
  • In Italy, the government is turning to help from the military and even looking to 3D printing in the hopes of ramping up production.
  • Britain has placed an order for 10,000 ventilators to be made by a consortium of companies including Ford, Airbus and Rolls-Royce.

The novel coronavirus causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19 that in severe cases can ravage the lungs.

It has so far killed at least 34,000 people globally.

Ventilators are mechanical breathing devices that can blow air and oxygen into the lungs.

They are crucial for the care of people with lung failure, which can be one of the complications suffered by patients with severe COVID-19, the disease coronavirus causes.

“The mortality amongst the intensive care population is being estimated as 50 to 60%,” said Rahuldeb Sarkar, a consultant physician in respiratory medicine and critical care in Britain.

If a critically ill patient doesn’t get a ventilator, “he dies within a few hours.”

Ventilators can help some of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients who start losing the ability to breathe on their own.

The devices offer gentle breathing assistance so a person’s lungs can rest while they fight the virus.

Governments around the world are trying to boost the number of ventilators as shortages bite.

In Kenya, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the World Bank has donated 250 ventilators.

“There’s a shortage around the world when it comes to ventilators and we are making every effort to secure as many as possible,” he said during a Press briefing on Sunday.

There are about 160,000 ventilators available in America but as many as 740,000 could be needed, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

some automakers are even switching from building cars to ventilators.

They are teaming up with existing ventilator makers to help them ramp up production. And some, like Ford and GM are exploring producing ventilators in their own factories. But it’s a race against time.

Already, sick patients are overwhelming hospitals in New York. The state fears it is headed for a situation like the one that played out in Italy, where ventilator shortages forced doctors to choose which patients get to use the potentially lifesaving machines.

“The number of ventilators we need is so astronomical,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday, adding that hospitals have resorted to using experimental solutions, such as putting two patients on one machine.

Not all ventilators are exactly alike. Some are more complex than others. The sickest COVID-19 patients’ lungs can stiffen, requiring high-end machines that cost up to $50,000 (Ksh.5.2million).

Those machines can be precisely tailored for patients and must be operated by trained medical professionals.

Ventilator makers are under pressure to sharply increase production even as the pandemic has disrupted the transport and supply of crucial parts, such as hoses, valves, motors and electronics – some of which come from China.

In Italy, the government is turning to help from the military, enlisting other manufacturers and even looking to 3D printing in the hopes of ramping up production of the potentially life-saving breathing machines.

A team of doctors has developed a way to provide oxygen to two people from one ventilator, therefore doubling capacity, according to the Italian region of Emilia Romagna’s commissioner for coronavirus.

Britain has placed an order for 10,000 ventilators to be made by a consortium of companies including Ford, Airbus and Rolls-Royce as part of efforts to fight the coronavirus.

Report by Reuters and CNN

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