'SARS hero' follows leads on illness

By ZOU SHUO | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-23 07:39
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Virologist Zhong Nanshan learns about the pneumonia situation at the Jinyintan hospital, in Wuhan, Hubei province, Jan 19, 2020. [Photo by Su Yueming/For China Daily]

While many in China are taking high-speed trains back home for the upcoming Spring Festival, Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory expert, rode the rails on Saturday to Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the viral pneumonia outbreak.

Zhong, 84, who heads a National Health Commission expert panel conducting research on the new epidemic, was the first to confirm on Monday during an interview with China Central Television that the new coronavirus can be transmitted between humans.

He advised people not to travel to and from Wuhan as he worked to combat the outbreak.

Two photos circulated widely on social media by Guangzhou Daily showed Zhong taking a short break on the train and rushing to a hospital in Wuhan to learn about patients' conditions.

Zhong played a huge role in discovering the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus in 2003, and he managed the SARS outbreak in Guangdong province at the time. He was dubbed the "SARS hero", and his efforts made him a household name across the country.

Zhong, then 67, was head of the expert task force appointed to fight the disease in the province.

When SARS cases peaked in late February 2003 in Guangdong, researchers at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced they had detected the SARS pathogen and identified it as a new type of chlamydia.

Virologist Zhong Nanshan inspects the Jinyintan hospital, where the patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, Hubei province, Jan 19, 2020. [Photo by Su Yueming/For China Daily]

Zhong and other doctors in Guangdong questioned the finding. With their clinical virology experience, they believed SARS was much more likely to be caused by an unknown virus.

The family of bacteria called chlamydia can be contained by antibiotics, yet antibiotics were ineffectual against SARS.

On April 12, 2003, Zhong and his colleagues isolated the coronavirus from specimens taken from SARS patients.

Four days later, the WHO announced that the coronavirus is responsible for causing the typical symptoms of SARS.

Bellow is a poster designed by China Daily website to pay tribute to the virologist. Please feel free to share it. 

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