Dr. Wu Lien-teh was born in 1879, has a Cantonese father (Chinese) and a Chinese mother born in Penang (Malaysia). Wu Lien-teh was also the first Chinese person to study medicine at the prestigious Cambridge University. In 1903, at the age of 24, Wu graduated back to his hometown of Kuala Lumpur, worked for the state and opened a private clinic.
In the winter of 1910, at the invitation of the Qing court, Dr. Wu and many foreign experts went to Harbin, northwest China, where an outbreak of pneumonia killed 60,000 lives. people in just 4 months.
Doctor Wu Lien Teh (1879–1960)
Immediately, Dr. Wu conducted an autopsy on modern standards – the first in China – for a female Japanese patient who died from an epidemic. As a result, Wu found Yersinia Pestis bacteria, which can be spread from person to person through saliva or sputum. The finding is startling and is suspected by colleagues at the same time, because they only know about the disease transmitted from mice or other animals to humans.
Among those questioning Wu was the famous French doctor Mesny. But many days later, Mesny himself died of pneumonia due to refusal to wear masks and preventive medical equipment. His death was extremely shocking in the international community.
Dr. Wu has been instrumental in preventing the spread of disease globally (Image: Sohu)
More broadly, the strange disease in Harbin has a mortality rate of more than 90%. Dr. Wu doubts it comes from the prevailing fur business. In an era when there was no specific antibiotic, there were many doubts, the young doctor was alert and determined to make a series of important decisions.
First, he persuaded Russian and Japanese officials to stop all trains to Harbin in 1911. Moreover, traffic in northwestern China was almost blocked. Still, the number of deaths increased during and after the lunar New Year, when the bodies were piled up in the snow.
Realizing this, Dr. Wu proposed to gather about 3,000 coffins for mass cremation at medical units. This measure appears to be effective in controlling epidemics. As of 3/31/1911 no more cases have been recorded.
The outbreak of pneumonia in Harbin broke out in the winter of 1910 and ended at the end of March next year (Image: Sohu)
Dr. Wu Lien-teh’s records on disease control are now kept in the library of National University of Singapore.
According to Mr. Paul Tambyah, Chairman of the Asia Pacific Association of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Wu’s knowledge and disease control therapies are accurate, valid to this day. Although the experience of dealing with the disease has existed since the Middle Ages in Europe and throughout Asia, Dr. Wu’s record is very systematic, scientific and easy to refer to modern medicine.
According to Tambyah, if Dr. Wu did not suggest stopping transcontinental trains that year, the consequences would be unpredictable. These trains, which carry both people and goods to Europe, including furs from Marmota (rodents) produced in northwestern China.
Tambyah said that if the trains were still rolling, the disease would spread to Paris or Berlin in just a few days. “The development of global traffic [vào lúc bấy giờ] will spread the disease more and more ” – he commented.
Dr. Wu (first, third from the left) and scientists at the International Conference on Disease, in China in 1911 (Image: Sohu)
Leaving Harbin in 1911 after the epidemic, Dr. Wu Lien-teh was considered a “disaster winner”, when he was only 32 years old. In April 1911, he opened an international conference to exchange experiences with scientists from England, France, Germany, USA, China and many other countries. In 1935, Dr. Wu was the first Malaysian to receive a Nobel Prize for Medicine.
In his later life, Wu Lien-teh was respected and opened a prestigious clinic in Malyasia. He died in his hometown outside of Penang in 1960. In Harbin, a museum was built to commemorate the brave, talented doctor who won the disease exactly 110 years ago.
Doctor Wu Liande and wife Li Shuzhen. The physician has been admired by many generations for his efforts to contain the disease in the past.
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