Coronavirus epidemic: Interview with Chinese medal team leader, Dr Li Zhiyuan | 10 February 2020
‘There are still no specific treatments for this disease, trying our best to prevent it is much more important’
With the coronavirus epidemic showing no sign of abating, Seychelles NATION spoke to Chinese medical team leader, Dr Li Zhiyuan, about his team’s expertise in combating such flu viruses.
Seychelles NATION: How long could the epidemic last?
Dr Li Zhiyuan: With the new coronavirus spreading to four continents, and travelling faster than SARS, many people worry about it. But what I want to say is that it’s still possible it can be cured and controlled, and the world will never see 2019-nCoV again, just like the disappearance of SARS, which took three to four months in 2003.
The 2019-nCoV joins the four coronaviruses now circulating in people. We don’t pay much attention to them because they’re so mundane, especially compared to seasonal flu. The ‘seasonal’ reflects the fact that viruses can’t tolerate high heat and humidity, preferring the cool and dry conditions of winter and spring. If the new coronavirus follows suit, then containment efforts plus the arrival of summer should drive infections to near zero. But like flu viruses, that doesn’t mean it’s gone. But even 2% is less than SARS’ 10% and nowhere near the 37% of MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus).
On the other hand, seasonal flu kills fewer than 0.1% of those it infects, though that’s still tens of thousands of deaths a year just in the United States of America. The global disaster that was the 1917 ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic killed 2.5%.
Seychelles NATION: How difficult it is to find a cure?
Dr Li Zhiyuan: Limited information is available to characterise the spectrum of clinical illness associated with the 2019-nCoV. No vaccine or specific treatment for the 2019-nCoV infection is available until today, but many scientists in China are working day and night to find a vaccine and medication. The Chinese CDC clinical criteria for a 2019-nCoV person under investigation have been developed based on what is known about MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV and are subject to change as additional information becomes available. Now according to the cured cases in China, specialists found that traditional Chinese medicine could have helped the patients to recover. Because there are still no specific treatments for this disease, trying our best to prevent it is much more important.
Seychelles NATION: Are you prepared enough to deal with casualties in Seychelles in case there is any?
Dr Li Zhiyuan: The Chinese medical team for Seychelles, led by the Chinese embassy, is preparing to fight against the 2019-nCoV together with the Seychelles government. Until now, 17 Chinese medical teams have been sent to Seychelles by our government. In the past 33 years, during every two-year working period at Seychelles Hospital, Chinese doctors have provided and have been providing medical services, exchanging expertise and experience with our Seychellois counterparts.
Seychelles NATION: What precautions are being taken?
Dr Li Zhiyuan: Chinese medical team tries its best to prevent the coronavirus spreading to Seychelles. As you know, China has just celebrated Chinese New Year, the most important holiday of the whole year. Chinese nationals all over the world had returned in large numbers to spend the family celebration in China. Now is the time to return. Those who have stayed in Hubei Province, where the virus problem started, or those who have had close contact with people from Hubei, wherever they are, have been strictly registered by the authorities and are no longer allowed to leave China at this time. For those who have the professional obligation to come to Seychelles, we asked them to undergo observation quarantine at home for 2 weeks, even if they have no symptoms.
We have spread the message several times, by all means, through all social networks, through all the associations of Chinese nationals and Chinese companies. To my knowledge, a few Chinese businessmen returned to Seychelles three weeks ago. They submitted to the quarantine observation for 2 weeks, and proved to be uninfected.
Seychelles NATION: What we should (not) do to prevent 2019-nCoV in Seychelles?
Dr Li Zhiyuan: There are many ways:
- Remember to take everyday preventive actions that are always recommended to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.
- If you feel sick with fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing, and have travelled to China or were in close contact with someone with 2019-nCoV in the 14 days before you began to feel sick, seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Do not show prejudice to people of Asian descent, because of fear of this new virus. Do not assume that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have 2019-nCoV. All persons in Seychelles – including those of Asian descent – who have not travelled to China or been in contact with someone with a confirmed or suspected nCoV case in the last 14 days are at low risk of becoming sick.