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Coronavirus epidemic may peak this month: Top SARS doctor

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The coronavirus outbreak has already killed more than 1,000 people - well over the 774 who died from the SARS epidemic almost two decades ago.

But Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government's top medical adviser who won international fame for his role in combating SARS, has told Reuters the worst may soon be over.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ZHONG NANSHAN, CHINA'S LEADING EPIDEMIOLOGIST, SAYING:

"Based on the monitoring of the real time development of recent days and based on the risk factor and also based on the strong intervention of the Chinese government, so we supposed maybe the peak time may be reached at maybe the middle or late this month, February, so and then keep a little plateau, or something like that, and then going down."

And he pointed the finger at the local health care authority where the outbreak began for not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ZHONG NANSHAN, CHINA'S LEADING EPIDEMIOLOGIST, SAYING:

"Local health authority, their work had not been doing well. I should say this. So, they should take some responsibility on that."

The outbreak of the disease is believed to have started in a market in the city of Wuhan that sold live wild animals.

Experts think it may have originated in bats and then passed to humans, possibly via another species.

Nanshan said lessons need to be learned.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ZHONG NANSHAN, CHINA'S LEADING EPIDEMIOLOGIST, SAYING:

"So I suppose after this event, China should set up a very strict law or stipulation saying it's really banned to keep wild life or eat wild life. So they maybe a very important point."

On Tuesday (February 11), the World Health Organization said they were still at an "early stage" in understanding the virus - how it's transmitted, the source and the incubation period.

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