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Interviewing the ‘virus hunter’, the American epidemiologist volunteered to enter the center of the Covid-19 epidemic

While most people will find a way to get as far away as possible from the Chinese translation of Covid-19, W. Ian Lipkin quietly flies there. As a habit, the epidemiology professor at Columbia Mailman University also flew to Saudi Arabia in 2012 to investigate the first cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

And he himself was in China during the SARS pandemic of 2003, to find out what is really happening on the other side of the Pacific.

This time, Lipkin will stay in China for a week. He intends to meet public health officials and researchers who “qualified and sincere enough“in the way Lipkin described.

He thought it was people he could collaborate with to learn about the Covid-19 epidemic, to discuss ways to prevent its dizzying spread and draw lessons for later.

Interviewing the “virus hunter”, the American epidemiologist came into the heart of the Covid-19 epidemic.

After his trip back to the US, Lipkin was quarantining at home 14 days. He had to measure his body temperature twice a day and report the data to the university. Lipkin said as soon as the quarantine period for follow-up incubation ended, he would return to China to continue his unfinished work.

Scientific American interviewed Lipkin to ask about his trip and plans at this time.

SA: What were your expectations for the last trip?

Lipkin: When I go into an outbreak, I really take it as an opportunity: You will go there; You assess the situation. And you will walk around like in CSI (a drama on the subject of forensics) and try to detect anything you can see about the source of the disease.

But what exactly is he looking for?

You will try to find a person who, among the people you meet, a person who is truly knowledgeable and sincere, a person who is sincere but who does not act in a challenging situation and lacks their resources. . You will also try to understand a little about the arc of leadership, who is capable of influencing what you want.

Interviewing the virus hunter the American epidemiologist volunteered to enter the center of the Covid 19 epidemic | Live

While most people will find a way to get as far away as possible from the Chinese translation of Covid-19, W. Ian Lipkin quietly flies there.

What are some of the important questions that you and the experts working directly there want to try to answer?

It is how to assess whether someone is infected or not? How much is a heat-based screening worth? How do you make sure you have control of the situation – so if someone tells you they are negative or positive [với virus], you know what that means?

How do you make a decision about choosing tests to find out if someone is infected? How long does a virus exist on a surface? How did people get infected? Is blood transfusion in this case safe?

Are personal protective measures (masks, protective equipment) safe? Will you have enough supplies of them? If the whole society stagnates, how do you get food sources?

Those are really important issues, and they have been posed.

He spent a week in Beijing and Guangzhou, a city in the second most affected province in the Covid-19 epidemic. But he did not go to Wuhan, where the disease broke out. Why so?

I did not go to any hospital in China and did not set foot in Wuhan, because if I did, I was afraid I would not be able to return. I went as far as possible, within which I was still allowed to return to the United States.

* Stay up to date with the latest news on the Covid-19 translation at

center of Wuhan, China.

Interviewing the virus hunter the American epidemiologist volunteered to enter the center of the Covid 19 epidemic | Live

I went as far as possible, within which I was still allowed to return to the United States.

Did you contact the US officials there?

I call my colleagues everyday [tại Viện sức khỏe quốc gia và Trung tâm kiểm soát và phòng ngừa dịch bệnh Hoa Kỳ], tell them what I’m looking for.

I have received more accurate information from US agencies about the number of cases, about what we know and do not know about this disease, and I know who is doing what.

Your colleagues can’t come to China, like you used to?

I have an outstanding reputation, and I can go wherever I want. But whether or not to return is unlikely.

A recent study showed that pangolin – an endangered anteater – could be the animal that transmitted the virus to humans at a market in Wuhan. Is it still important at this point to identify which animal is an intermediary between humans and bats – a species known as the corona virus reservoir?

I don’t think there are many people who eat pangolin, but some women in China think it’s great for you if you’re breastfeeding. And people who are suffering from many chronic diseases also think pangolin is good for their health.

In fact, if we can convince people that a wild animal is the source of the virus, and they have no doubt about it, then two benefits will appear: I have read somewhere confirming 70% that pangolin is a virus carrier. If so, it is good for pangolins – it makes people think that pangolin should not be eaten anymore.

And that also strengthens an opinion, something I have told anyone I’ve met in China: “Look, gentlemen, I told you this from 2003, 2004 and 2005, I say it over and over again. We cannot allow such wildlife markets to exist. ”

I think we can finally get a kick. This outbreak could be the condition that allowed us to express our views unequivocally, because the Chinese government saw the price they were paying.

From what you have seen, do you think the Chinese government is handling this crisis well, as well as being able to guess what they are about to do? Can we avoid a disaster?

There are Chinese who are doing very well – very dedicated. I asked myself, if an outbreak like this happened in the United States, how many of us would work around the clock? I do not know. I hope we never have to answer that question.

But there are also early warning signs that have been overlooked.

Interviewing the virus hunter the American epidemiologist volunteered to enter the center of the Covid 19 epidemic | Live

American epidemiologist Ian Lipkin was dubbed the “virus hunter”

He has been to Guangzhou many times before. Does this feeling different or not?

Now Guangzhou is no longer beautiful. The city is basically empty. There is no one on the street. Everyone wears masks. Almost everything is silent. If you want to book a table in an open restaurant, there is no difficulty, no waiting as before.

Are you afraid you will catch a virus?

I must say that I am not subjective. I was worried about that. But you can turn fear into your advantage. Fear helps you become more aware of your surroundings and be more careful about what you do, thereby reducing your risks.

What precautions do you take while in China?

I wash my hands often and I wear a mask – that’s really all I can do. I have an N95 mask. I brought them from America. And of course, I have left some for colleagues in China, the country that is lacking them.

I often wear gloves, not surgical gloves but leather gloves when I ride the tram, in many other situations and at the airport. That is just a prudent measure. I also wear gloves when taking the subway in New York.

What lessons can we learn from future epidemics, if any?

We should soon appreciate the anomalies that occur in the field of epidemiology, before something breaks out. I have tried to connect international cooperation programs to proactively address these issues.

The idea is that there will be a team of researchers willing to commit to sharing resources, sharing data and posting the results on a website, so that when an infectious disease is discovered, people will find a way to identify it. risk and say:

A, this is something we can solve. What can we do now? What will it look like? ”

I am trying to raise funds for this program, it is very, very difficult. But this is what I think I will do to make the world safer.

Interviewing the virus hunter the American epidemiologist volunteered to enter the center of the Covid 19 epidemic | Live

Refer Scientificamerican

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