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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in ICU With COVID-19

Boris Johnson

MONDAY, April 6, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care at St. Thomas' Hospital in London as his condition deteriorated after infection with the novel coronavirus.

According to The New York Times, Johnson, 55, had tweeted from hospital on Monday that he was "in good spirits." Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was standing in for Johnson, added that the prime minister was working from bed and was still "in charge" of the government.

However, Raab has admitted that he has not spoken to Johnson since Saturday, and commentators in the U.K. have expressed concern that the prime minister's COVID-19 symptoms have persisted for 10 days since his diagnosis on March 26.

According to the Times, there are reports that Johnson received oxygen upon arrival at St. Thomas' on Sunday, but British officials have declined to confirm that and said they will not be providing constant updates.

It was thought that Johnson might be able to resume full duties by the end of last week, but last Friday aides said he continued to have a high fever and remained in self-isolation. A number of other members of the U.K. government have also shown signs of coronavirus infection.

On Saturday, Johnson's partner, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, also disclosed that she is infected.

Dr. Robert Glatter is an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Although he is not involved in Johnson's care, he is very familiar with protocols for intensive care of COVID-19 patients.

"Before they are transferred to ICU, some COVID-19 patients are maintained on increasing amounts of oxygen delivered by noninvasive ventilation devices such as a high flow nasal cannula," he explained. Use of this device "minimizes the potential for any aerosolized virus in the surroundings," Glatter explained.

"However, if this device is not available, increasing amounts of oxygen delivered through nasal prongs along with an oxygen mask with 100% non-rebreather can be a temporizing measure before a patient is placed on a ventilator," Glatter added.

Before any patient is sent to the ICU, staff closely watch them for certain signs, such as change in their mental status, increasing inability to breathe, and a lowering of blood-oxygen levels.

Once placed in the ICU, "vitals signs including heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels are continuously monitored," Glatter said. "Patients receive intravenous medication to relax their muscles and alleviate anxiety while the breathing tube is in place."

The majority of coronavirus infections will be mild; only 15% will require hospital admission, and only about 5% of those are so severe as to require ICU care, according to Dr. Megan Coffee, a clinical assistant professor of infectious disease and immunology at NYU's Grossman School of Medicine in New York City.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

SOURCES: Robert Glatter, M.D., emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; The New York Times
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