Renowned epidemiologist Walter Lipkin lauds China's transparent and professional approach against coronavirus outbreak

By Sining Zheng in New York Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/3 12:19:15

Photo: GT

On January 29, internationally acclaimed epidemiologist Walter Ian Lipkin of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health flew to China amid the coronavirus break. He is here 17 years since the SARS epidemic to fight against the coronavirus outbreak. As the world’s first scientist who used molecular methods to diagnose pathogenic bacteria, Lipkin trained several medical staff members in China during the SARS epidemic. As the latest examination techniques of coronavirus are similar to those of SARS, these professionals are playing an important role in the identification.
Lipkin, also known as the “virus hunter” in the field of epidemiology, said, compared with SARS, China’s national epidemic control of the coronavirus infection has made two significant advancements. First, the likelihood of virus detection has improved not only in terms of technology but also in terms of professional training of the medical personnel. Second, there’s greater transparency in the dissemination of information.
From SARS, MERS to West Nile virus, and Ebola virus, Lipkin has been at the forefront of the worldwide epidemic outbreaks. In the past few years, he worked closely with Chinese scientists and officials to strengthen public health systems and protect people from the outbreak of infectious diseases.
After the outbreak of the new coronavirus infection,  Lipkin, in his 70s, paid close attention to the epidemic’s mutation. On the evening of January 29, he arrived in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province and discussed with Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan about the progress of the epidemic and its prevention. On February 1, they flew to Beijing and discussed the findings with their Chinese counterparts.
"Compared to SARS, coronavirus’ fatality rate is lower, but the transmission is more extensive,” said Lipkin. “The rate of transmission and the number of infected areas are likely to be higher than those of SARS, and the reason is unclear yet."
Lipkin believes , currently, the number of confirmed patients is possibly underestimated while the number of mortality is overestimated as people are likely to sustain infection without showing 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, adding that at present, new coronavirus vaccines are being developed, which might take one year. Currently, donning masks in public areas is a best way for the prevention and control of the disease. Besides, avoiding crowded places, paying attention to personal hygiene, and most importantly, avoiding the consumption of wild animals could be effective.
Lipkin is optimistic about academic research institutes around the world strengthening cooperation at this significant time to improve the diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus and anticipates breakthroughs at the earliest.


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