The novel coronavirus outbreak may reach its peak in one week or around 10 days, said renowned Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan.
Renowned respiratory scientist Zhong Nanshan receives an interview with Xinhua in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province, Jan 28, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
"It is very hard to say for sure when the outbreak will reach its peak, yet I think it can reach its climax in one week or about 10 days and then there will not be large-scale increases," Zhong said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday.
Zhong, 84, is the head of a national team of experts set up by the National Health Commission for the control and prevention of the novel coronavirus and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Early detection and isolation are key to control the epidemic. They are also the most important and effective methods, he said.
Zhong said fever is still the typical symptom of the novel coronavirus, meaning body temperature checks are still necessary at airports, borders and railway stations.
"I don't think there will be mass infection due to the Spring Festival holiday return trips, since those who have fallen sick would get timely treatment back home and those who have not will be just fine."
Ten to 14 days is a sound period for isolation and observation, but screening and detection measures must continue, Zhong said.
Pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus will not last as long as the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in 2003, which lasted more than five months. This is because the country has taken strong measures to contain the outbreak, especially in early detection and early isolation, Zhong said.
He suggested hospitals should be staffed with not only infectious disease specialists, but also specialists in treating other severe cases to better save patients.
There still are no effective drugs to combat the virus, yet researchers and medical staff have been working on several methods and life-supporting technologies have improved greatly, so the death rate of the novel coronavirus will be further reduced, he said.
Zhong said there is no evidence so far showing a super-spreader, or a highly contagious virus, has emerged. "However, we cannot tell for sure that a super-spreader will not emerge in the future."
A super-spreader is highly infectious and can transmit virus to a considerable amount of people, accelerating transmission and widening the outbreak.
"Wuhan has proven to be a city with heroic people. I think with the whole country behind the city, many problems can be solved and the outbreak will be contained," he said.
Zhong was the first to confirm on Jan 20 during an interview with China Central Television that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted between humans.
Zhong played a huge role in fighting SARS in 2003, and was dubbed the "SARS hero". His efforts have made him a household name across the country.