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Novel coronavirus could soon build a home in a human being near us

China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-25 08:27
A team of novel coronavirus pneumonia experts from China and the World Health Organization visit the Guanggu branch of Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, Feb 23, 2020. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/chinadaily.com.cn]

Wang Chen, president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and a famous respiratory expert, recently told reporters it was possible for the novel coronavirus to become a long-standing disease like flu that coexists with human beings.

Wang's warning has drawn wide public concern given how the outbreak has hit us in recent days. But instead of worrying unduly, we should properly understand this "coexistence" so as to be able to fight the virus and maintain social order.

Considering what we already know of the novel coronavirus' characteristics, many experts agree with Wang's assessment. Prolonged existence of a new virus is, after all, not unheard of.

And it is common for many microbes, such as bacteria and fungus, to coexist with human beings for a long time. For a virus to coexist with human beings it has to have low virulence, so that it does not kill the host it lives in. Once the low-virulence virus spreads widely it is possible for it to become longstanding in human society, like flu. From what we know so far, these are exactly the characteristics of the novel coronavirus.

Experts also point out that if the novel coronavirus becomes a long-lasting disease, it will not harm humans as seriously as it is doing right now, because natural immunity to the virus will improve by then and efforts to research and develop a vaccine may be successful.

We should prepare for all possibilities in the future, but first of all we should make all efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, considering the heavy cost its outbreak has on society. Effective epidemic prevention and control measures can also reduce the possibility of the virus coexisting with human beings, but this will require joint efforts by countries around the world. As individuals and society, a scientific understanding of the virus, policies such as a thorough ban on trade in wild animals, and an improved public health system and personal hygiene will also help fight the novel coronavirus.

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