Will the new coronavirus burn out like SARS — or is it here to stay?


Nearly two decades after he was treated, former severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) patient Alex Lam is still haunted by his experience.

“(It is) painful hearing the news again. SARS is coming back, the deadly virus is coming back,” he said. SARS, of course, has not returned, but the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus is sweeping China, opening old wounds for some.

John Nicholls, clinical professor of pathology at the University of Hong Kong, said the SARS outbreak was brought to an end in July 2003 by good hygiene practices and environmental factors such as high temperature and humidity.”That will be the same for this one,” he said. “My feeling is that this is just going to be like SARS and the world is going to get basically a very bad cold for about five months.”

When will it end? Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s leading respiratory experts, said he expected the coronavirus to peak as quickly as the coming weekend.

Gabriel Leung, HKU’s chair professor of public health medicine, was less optimistic and estimated the number of cases to peak around mid-April or mid-May.

Another scenario is that the coronavirus could become a common global illness, like influenza. That outcome would not be without precedent. H1N1 — a strain of flu responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic has now become a seasonal virus.



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