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Strictest measures enacted to contain viral pneumonia

By WANG XIAODONG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-22 04:43
Nurses and patients wear masks in the emergency department of Beijing's Peking Union Medical College Hospital on Tuesday, as a sign on the door directs patients with a fever to go to designated departments. [Photo by Wang Zhuangfei/China Daily]

A high-level expert team organized by the National Health Commission on Monday answered some of the most concerning questions about the new coronavirus that has caused the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, which has spread to multiple provincial regions across China and some overseas locations.

Origin of the virus

Zhong Nanshan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a prominent expert in respiratory diseases, said the virus very likely originated from wild animals.

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease and Control and Prevention: We have collected evidence that the virus is linked with wild animals in a seafood market in Wuhan, which was closed following the report of the outbreak. We have identified the new coronavirus in the market. We are not certain of the source of infection, as we have not found out which particular animal is responsible. All six coronaviruses known to humans, including the one that caused severe acute respiratory disease, originated from wild mammals.

Yuan Guoyong, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering: We should not eat wild animals. We must respect the life of wild animals and their habitats, because we share the same Earth.

Comparison with SARS

Yuan Guoyong: The new coronavirus is different from SARS, and the two viruses result in different clinical conditions and infectiousness. At present, it is not clear how the new virus will develop and how it affects humans, and a lot of work needs to be done.

Li Lanjuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering: Since the SARS outbreak, China has built a very good disease prevention and control system, and our capacity to prevent and control diseases has greatly increased. This is why we successfully developed testing methods for the new virus soon after the start of the outbreak.

Zhong Nanshan: I am very confident the SARS outbreaks 17 years ago will not repeat. We successfully identified the new coronavirus within two weeks of the outbreak, and we have very good disease monitoring and quarantine systems. So I do not think the new virus will result in damage to society and the economy as SARS did.

Means of disease control and prevention

Zhong Nanshan: The best way to prevent and control the disease is to identify and diagnose cases as early as possible, and put them under quarantine for treatment. Various authorities, including those in health authorities, should take responsibility. For Wuhan, it is important to minimize the exportation of the virus. The city will take strict measures to identify cases at its airport and railway stations. Temperature measuring should be applied, and we suggest residents in the city with abnormal temperatures not leave, which is very important.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention: For Wuhan, all the public should act, and all government departments should join efforts for disease control.

Availability of effective drugs for the disease

Zhong Nanshan: Similar to SARS, there is no effective drug for the disease at present, but we are doing animal research and trying some traditional Chinese medicines.

Impact on the peak traffic season around the Spring Festival holiday

Zhong Nanshan: Now it is a critical state. We estimate the number of cases will continue rising during the 40-day travel season, which started on Jan 10.

Zeng Guang: We hope we can take measures so the number of cases will not rise too much and can decrease rapidly after the peak traffic season.

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