The novel coronavirus has killed over 100 doctors and nurses around the world, nearly half of whom are reported to be in Italy. The U.S. saw its first emergency physician die after showing COVID-19 symptoms this week. Several other healthcare workers have died since the wake of the outbreak across the globe, including in China, the U.K., France, Spain and Iran.
The virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, has infected more than a million people across 181 countries and regions, while over 58,000 have died, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Speaking to Newsweek, the chief executive officer of the International Council of Nurses, Howard Catton, said: "We have been concerned for some weeks now about how many nurses and other healthcare staff have become infected with the coronavirus. Nurses around the globe are working under extreme pressure for long hours without breaks and without days off, and it is taking its toll."
Infection rates among healthcare workers in Italy and Spain were reported to be nine percent and 14 percent, respectively, Catton noted. "Sadly there have been deaths among nurses there [in Italy and Spain] and in Iran and Indonesia, some nurses have died by suicide," he added.
"We have no doubt that the rate of infections is related in part to the lack of personal protective equipment. We know there is a global shortage, but nurses are the frontline, they are heroes and they must be protected if they are to continue with the unique lifesaving work that they are doing."
Number of doctors and nurses who have died from COVID-19
(as of April 4)
Italy at least 66
China at least 13
U.K. at least 5
France at least 5
Spain at least 5
Iran at least 3
U.S. at least 1
Greece at least 1
Poland at least 1
Pakistan at least 1
Below we take a closer look at some of the doctors and nurses who have died from the virus so far.
Dr. Frank Gabrin, 60, an emergency room doctor who treated patients with symptoms of the virus, died on Tuesday after showing similar symptoms while attempting to recover at home. He reportedly used the same surgical mask for a week due to equipment shortages before he died, according to his friend quoted in the New York Post.
While he wasn't tested for the virus, he is the first emergency physician to die of likely COVD-19 virus complications, the American College of Emergency Physicians confirmed in a statement.
Gabin was a two-time cancer survivor who worked at New Jersey's East Orange General Hospital as well as another hospital in Long Island and at St John's Hospital in the New York City borough of Queens.
"He was an amazing doctor. He loved to take care of people. He was an angel," described Arnold Vargas, Gabrin's husband, told the Post.
The chairman of East Orange General Hospital's Emergency Department, Dr. Alvaro Alban, noted Gabrin was "delightful, caring and wonderful to work with."
"He had every intention to help. He was eager to keep working in the E.D. and was disappointed when he started to get symptoms. His intention was that his fever would break. Dr. Gabrin was motivated, on a mission and wanted to keep working," he told WNBC in a statement.
At least 13 infected doctors and nurses were reported to have died, The South China Morning Post reported last month. Around 3,300 healthcare workers have been infected in China, the country's National Health Commission confirmed last month.
The country's death toll includes Li Wenliang. The 34-year-old doctor, who died in February, was among the first to share information about the COVID-19 virus before the outbreak exploded across the country.
Back in December 2019, he warned his medical school classmates in an online chat group about several patients who had been hospitalized in Wuhan after being struck by a Sars-like disease.
But subsequently, Li and a handful of others who shared information about the virus, were sought by Chinese police and forced to sign a letter vowing to refrain from making any further disclosures about the new illness.
An outpouring of tributes followed the death of Li, who is survived by a son and a pregnant wife.
"In the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection, our hospital's ophthalmologist, Li Wenliang, was unfortunately infected. He passed away after all the efforts we've taken to resuscitate him. We deeply mourn his passing," Wuhan Central Hospital (where Li died) said on its official Weibo social media account at the time.
"We are very sorry to hear the loss of any frontline worker who is committed to care for patients ... we should celebrate his [Li's] life and mourn his death with his colleagues," the executive director of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) health emergencies program, Michael Ryan, said at the time of Li's death.
Zhong Nanshan, an 83-year-old epidemiologist who is known for helping to fight the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003, told Reuters at the time of Li's death: "Most people think he's [Li] the hero of China. I'm so proud of him...He told people the truth at the end of December."
Last month, a colleague of Li's at Wuhan Central Hospital, was also pronounced dead after being infected. Mei Zhongming, 57, was an ophthalmologist who was lauded for his 30 years of service, according to an announcement from the hospital on WeChat, a social media network in China.
Peng Yinhua, a 29-year-old respiratory and critical care doctor, was among the youngest doctors to die in China back in February. He worked at the Jiangxia district People's No 1 Hospital in Wuhan. Peng was reported to have postponed his wedding, which was planned to take place over the Lunar New Year holiday, to help treat COVID-19 virus patients, The South China Morning Post reported.
Xia Sisi, a 29-year-old gastroenterologist working at the Union Jiangbei Hospital in Wuhan, also passed away in February after contracting the virus.
Italy has seen at least 66 doctors die from the virus, according to the latest figures from Italy's National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists reported earlier this week. Nearly 9,000 healthcare workers in Italy have been infected, Italy's National Institute of Health reports.
Among the most recent deaths include that of Roberto Mileti, a gynaecologist from Rome, Guido Riva, a general practitioner (GP) from Bergamo in Lombardy (the region worst-hit by the outbreak), and Gaetana Trimarchi, a GP from Messina. All three doctors reportedly died on the same day.
Nearly all of the doctor deaths were in northern Italy, where the virus was first reported in the country. Around a third of the doctors who died were reported to be GPs, including four in Bergamo and another four in Lodi, a town near Bergamo.
Two of the doctors were reported to have been working in nursing homes. Most of the clinicians who died were in their 60s and 70s, while one was 90-years-old, the federation confirms.
The death toll also includes several pulmonologists, an anesthesiologist, an epidemiologist, an ophthalmologist, a medical examiner and dentists, including one who was 49 and another who was 55 years old.
The president of the federation, Filippo Anelli, told The Financial Times: "The dead do not make a noise. Yet, the names of our dead friends, our colleagues, put here in black and white, make a deafening noise."
"It is reasonable to assume that these events would have been largely avoidable if health workers had been correctly informed and equipped with sufficient adequate personal protective equipment: masks, gloves, disposable gowns, protective visors, which instead continue to be in short supply," he said in a statement.
The federation also noted: "Many doctors are dying suddenly, even if their cause of death is not directly linked to the virus, because a test does not get done."
Last month, the U.K. saw the death of at least three infected doctors.
Adil El Tayar, a 63-year-old organ transplant specialist, became the first surgeon from the country's National Health Service (NHS) to die from the virus last week. He died at West Middlesex University Hospital in London.
He was reported to have worked around the world but spent the last days of his life volunteering at an A&E (accident and emergencies) department in the Midlands region of England.
Amged El-Hawrani, a 55-year-old ear, nose and throat specialist at Queen's Hospital Burton in Derbyshire in the East Midlands of England, also died from the virus at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, The Guardian reports.
Earlier this week, a retired NHS doctor, 68-year-old Dr. Alfa Saadu from Nigeria who moved to the U.K when he was 12, was reported to have died after being infected. He was ill for two weeks.
Tayar is survived by a wife and four children, two of whom are also doctors in the NHS.
A former colleague of Tayar, Abbas Ghazanfar (a renal transplant surgeon at St George's University in Tooting), described Tayar as a "noble human being" and a "hard-working, dedicated surgeon," The Guardian reported.
"He wanted to be deployed where he would be most useful in the crisis," Tayar's cousin, British-Sudanese journalist Zeinab Badawi, said in a tribute on BBC Radio 4.
"It had taken just 12 days for Adil to go from a seemingly fit and capable doctor working in a busy hospital to lying in a hospital morgue," he said.
Stephen Powis, the director of the country's National Health Service (NHS), said: "The NHS is a family and we all feel deeply the loss of any of our colleagues, as we all continue to unite and work together to tackle the spread of coronavirus. Amged's death is not just an individual human tragedy, but a stark reminder to the whole country that we all must take this crisis seriously."
Saadu was the medical director at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow of southeast England before he retired in 2017. He continued working part-time at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Welwyn, Hertfordshire of southern England. It has not been confirmed whether he was treating COVID-19 patients before he died, according to the Manchester Evening News.
"My Dad was a living legend, saving people's lives here and in Africa. Up until he got sick, he was still working part-time, saving people," Saadu's son, Dani, wrote on Facebook.
This month also saw the death of two NHS nurses in England who tested positive for the virus.
Areema Nasreen, a 36-year-old nurse, died from the virus after being placed on a ventilator at Walsall Manor Hospital where she worked in the acute medical unit, BBC reports.
"She was a very, very, respected and valued member of the team on the acute medical unit and they are absolutely distraught. Her dedication to her role and her popularity amongst her colleagues is obvious to see with the outpouring of grief," the chief executive of the Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust in the West Midlands region of England, Richard Beeken, said.
"She always said that she was so blessed to have the role of a nurse which she absolutely loved because she wanted to feel like she could make a difference - and you did, Areema, you will be very sadly missed," Beeken said.
Aimee O'Rourke, a 39-year-old nurse working at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) Hospital in Margate, Kent on the southeast coast of England, died Thursday.
The mother of three was described to be someone "who gave her life to make sure other people survived" and "a wonderful friend and colleague," to those she worked with, ITV News reports.
Dr. Samara Afzal, a GP in Birmingham, England who knew Ms Nasreen, told the BBC Asian Network: "She was very bubbly, full of life. She was a fantastic role model to Asian women, she married young and had children but then wanted to pursue her dream in nursing, became a nurse and absolutely loved her job, she was completely dedicated to it, she'd go out of her way to help people."
The Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, said: "We know that Areema has given her life in terms of looking after patients, my sympathies go out to [her] entire family."
The regional director of the Royal College of Nursing South East, Patricia Marquis, said O'Rourke was a "fabulous nurse with the biggest of hearts," BBC reports.
O'Rourke's daughter, Megan Murphy, paid tribute to her mother in a post on Facebook: "Look at all the lives you looked after and all the families you comforted when patients passed away.
"You are an angel and you will wear your NHS crown forevermore because you earned that crown the very first day you started!," she wrote.
The virus has claimed the lives of at least five doctors so far in France, The Local reports.
The first casualty was a 68-year-old emergency doctor from Compigne in the Oise department of eastern France where one of the first clusters of cases were reported.
Two other doctors, a 66-year-old gynaecologist-obstetrician and a 60-year-old GP, were also reported to have died after being infected, the government confirmed last month. They worked in the Haut-Rhin and Moselle departments of eastern France.
A 70-year-old doctor also died at a hospital in Colmar of eastern France, while another 68-year-old doctor passed away in the Trevenans commune of northeastern France, health officials confirmed.
Jean-Jacques Razafindranazy, described as a "hero" in a post on Facebook shared by his son, was the first French doctor to die from the virus. He died after being transferred to a university hospital in Lille.
He was a retired doctor but did not stop working because his colleagues were so overworked, the son told Le Parisien.
"He sacrificed himself. He wanted to help. He kept working because he loved it, it was his life. It's not fair. We are sad and angry," the unnamed son said.
Olivier Vran, the French Minister of Solidarity and Health, noted the deaths "emphasised the extraordinary courage shown by all the doctors, nurses, firefighters and other people who help save lives every day."
"There is a very heavy price paid by the great family of doctors in our country today." he added.
Spain has yet to release any official figures on the number of deaths among doctors and nurses who tested positive for the virus. But there are at least 9,444 infected medical workers, which is nearly 12 percent of Spain's total cases, according to Spain's emergency coordination center, NBC News reported this week.
Four doctors in Spain have reportedly died from the virus, including a 28-year-old doctor in the town of Alczar de San Juan in southwest Spain, La Vanguardia reported last Sunday.
At least five infected doctors were reported to have died in Barcelona alone, Spain's Beteve reported on Monday.
The president of Madrid's Association of Independent Nurses, Alda Recas, told NBC News: "We were already overloaded before this crisis, and now you have to add the emotional overload. We haven't seen a situation like this one in all of our lives and careers."
A 27-year-old anaesthetist working in the intensive care unit at Hospital Universitario La Paz in Madrid, Miguel Guirao, told NBC News: "We are trying to protect ourselves the best we can. Not just for ourselves, but for our families and other patients," expressing concern over the large number of infected medical workers in Spain.
At least 13 medical workers have reportedly died from coronavirus in Iran, including two doctors, according to Iranian state media.
Last month, Iranian doctor Mehdi Variji, was reported to have shared a video of himself before he died where he said he is not feeling well, Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) reported.
"Unfortunately, I am feeling unwell... the fever will not let up," he said in the video. He reportedly appeared to have difficulty breathing as he spoke in the video.
Earlier last month, Vahid Monsef, an Iranian doctor at the Gilan Medical Sciences University in the Gilan province, was reported to have died in the hospital where he worked after being infected.
He was said to have spent weeks attempting to save the lives of infected patients poured into his poorly equipped hospital ward.
A 25-year-old nurse also from the Gilan province, Narjes Khanalizadeh, was said to have died just days after Iran first confirmed the outbreak in February, Rudaw reports.
Last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed the country's death toll was declining, based on a reported decline in hospital check-ins.
Rouhani said at a meeting with the National Task Force for Fighting the Coronavirus: "Among the topics discussed was a report according to which it was evident that hospital check-ins in provinces had declined and that the death toll was declining, both of which are important to us."
Greece: One doctor who tested positive has passed away, while 115 medical professionals are infected and 500 workers are in quarantine, the The Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) told Newsweek.
Poland: One doctor who tested positive has died. There are now 461 healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, paramedics) who have been infected, while nearly 4,500 are in quarantine at the moment, according to official data published on Thursday, CPME) told Newsweek.
Pakistan: Dr. Osama Riaz died after testing positive for the virus last month, a health official in the country's northern Gilgit province, Shah Zaman, told Reuters. He was reported to have been screening people who have recently returned to Pakistan after traveling to Iran.
A-Z of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers who died from COVID-19
Rosario Vittorio Gentile, 67, General Practitioner, Specialist in Allergology and Hematology, Cremona, Italy
Calogero Giabbarrasi, 68, General Practitioner, Caltanissetta, Italy
Raffaele Giura, 80, Pneumologist, Como, Italy
Mario Giovita, 65, General Practitioner, Bergamo, Italy
James T. Goodrich, 73, Neurosurgeon, Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Montefiore Health System, Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery, Pediatrics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, New York, United States
Renzo Granata, 68, General Practitioner, Alessandria, Italy
Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok (US Army), 57, Physician Assistant, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Alex Hsu, 67, Internal Medicine, Northwest Medical Center, Margate, Florida, United States
Anonymous Prison Doctor, died on March 26, 2020; Foggia, Italy
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