Renowned expert answers critical questions about new coronavirus
By Guo Meiping

"The growth of confirmed cases will continue for a while," Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan said in an interview with CCTV on Sunday. "But I believe it won't be too long."

During the interview, the renowned expert also answered other critical questions that have caused public concern regarding the current outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Fecal-oral transmission

There has been a new concern that the novel coronavirus may be spread by fecal-oral transmission. Zhong said that doctors are keeping a close eye on whether feces can carry the contagion.

"It is true that some patients have tested positive for nucleic acid in their feces," he said, adding that the likelihood of fecal-oral transmission will increase if there is a virus isolated from feces.

Zhong explained the difference between the isolation of the virus and nucleic acid. He said that nucleic acids are sequences of viruses, isolating nucleic acid from feces doesn't necessarily mean that there is a virus in the feces.

"The isolation of the virus means there is a living virus in patients' feces," Zhong said. "We will be facing a bigger problem (if there is a virus isolated from patients' feces)."

Mortality rate

Zhong told CCTV that up to now, the mortality rate of confirmed cases is about 2.3 to 2.4 percent, and the mortality rate in Wuhan is higher than in other places because of the concentration of patients.

The expert said that the mortality rate of the novel coronavirus pneumonia is lower than H7N9, MERS, and H5N1, but higher than regular flu.

"We shouldn't let our guard down because of the relatively low mortality rate," he said.

Asymptomatic infection cases

"We don't have many asymptomatic infection cases," said Zhong, adding that most of these cases took tests because they had contacted confirmed patients or had been to Wuhan.

"There were reports that some asymptomatic infection cases can self-cure and some are infectious," the expert said, emphasizing if a person's nucleic acid test is positive, quarantine is necessary.

How to wear masks efficiently

The expert suggested the general public to wear masks if inside of epidemic areas and in public places where people are gathering.

"But you don't have to wear it everywhere, for example, if you went to a court with few people, then wearing a mask is not necessary," said Zhong.

Zhong said that normally, people don't have to wear N95 masks, regular surgical masks are good enough.

"You don't have to change to a new mask every time," the expert suggested. "If you can protect it well – folding the cheek side in and not touching it when taking it off – then you can continue to wear the mask."