Global disease expert claims China’s virus control efforts better than SARS outbreak
By Sining Zheng
People's Daily app


World-renowned dissease control expert Walter Ian Lipkin.  (Photo: People Daily)

New York (People's Daily) - Internationally renowned expert, Walter Ian Lipkin with the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, visited China again on January 29, 17 years after the SARS outbreak, to help fight the novel coronavirus.

As the first scientist ever to use molecular methods to diagnose pathogenic bacteria, Lipkin trained medical personnel in China during the SARS outbreak. Today, new examination methods used to combat coronavirus are similar to the ones used to fight SARS, so medical personnel are playing an important role.

Lipkin, known as the “virus hunter” in the field of epidemiology, said that compared to the SARS outbreak, the China’s handling of the coronavirus infection had made two significant advances. One, the country’s level of technology used for virus detection has improved, along with its professional training capabilities. Two, information disclosure has become more transparent.

From SARS, MERS to the West Nile and Ebola viruses, Lipkin has been at the forefront of major worldwide epidemics. In the past few years, he has worked closely with Chinese scientists and officials to strengthen public health systems and safeguard people from infectious disease outbreaks.

Following news of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Lipkin paid close attention to its development. The disease expert met with Zhong Nanshan in Guangzhou to discuss the epidemic’s progress and prevention methods. On February 1, Lipkin and Zhong went to Beijing to meet with their counterparts.

"Compared to SARS, coronavirus’s fatality rate is lower, but the transmission is more extensive,” Lipkin said, and added that “the rate of transmission and the number of infected area are likely to be higher than those of SARS, and the reason is unclear."

Lipkin analyzed the number of confirmed patients is possibly underestimated, while the mortality rate has been overestimated because people can be infected without experiencing any symptoms.

"Some experts predict that there may be a downward trend of infection after mid-February. However, there will be more confirmed cases because it takes time for the symptoms to show up," Lipkin said.

At present, new coronavirus vaccines are being developed, and such development may take as long as one year. Right now, the best ways to prevent and control the disease are wearing a face mask in public areas, avoiding crowds, keeping personal hygiene, and most importantly, stop eating wild animals, Lipkin explained.

Lipkin, who is almost 70, hopes that academic research institutes worldwide to strengthen cooperation during this important period to improve diagnostic methods and treatment of the coronavirus so that breakthroughs can happen as soon as possible.