World Covid-19 origin: WHO expert says wildlife trade most likely pathway for coronavirus to arrive in Wuhan
Contentious Hunt for Covid’s Origin Points to China Animal Trade
Scientists tracing the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic believe they’ve identified a possible transmission source: China’s thriving wildlife trade. The highly anticipated findings from experts convened by the World Health Organization and the Chinese government are expected to show parallels to the spawning in 2002 of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, a bat-borne coronavirus spread by civets that killed 800 people. The path trod by SARS-CoV-2 -- as the new coronavirus is known -- before it emerged in central China in December 2019 remains a mystery, though it’s one researchers say can be solved.
The wildlife trade in China is the most likely pathway through which Covid-19 was able to spread from the original animal source, possibly bats, to humans, according to one of the authors of a long-awaited World Health Organization report on the origin of the virus.
The report, expected to be released on Tuesday after repeated delays, will include "multiple hundred pages, with lots of data, lots of new facts and information," said Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO team of international experts whothe Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, earlier this year.
China’s exotic farms may be a missing link behind the pandemic’s leap to people
Farms supplying live civets, snakes, and bamboo rats may be where the virus jumped between species.Eventually, high-end restaurateurs likely used some of the civets—considered a delicacy by some in China—as an ingredient in a pricey soup that also includes snake meat.
But the report's main conclusions -- about the possible ways in which the novel coronavirus could have emerged in Wuhan -- will remain unchanged from when the WHO wrapped up their trip in February, he said.
The WHO investigation, conducted more than a year after the initial outbreak, has been under intense scrutiny since the outset. Some scientists and governments havethe independence of the study. Beijing, on the other hand, has accused Washington and others of "politicizing" the origin of the virus.
Last week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry gave ato diplomats on the main findings of WHO's research in anticipation of the release of the report.
Feng Zijian, deputy director of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of the Chinese team, said the experts on both sides examined four possibilities of how the virus got to Wuhan -- through frozen food, directly infecting a human, infecting an intermediate animal and leaking from a.
Former CDC director Robert Redfield believes the coronavirus escaped a lab in China. Scientists are dubious.
Scientists criticized Robert Redfield's unsupported assertions. They say human error can never be ruled out but there are likelier virus origins.He offered no explanation for this idea other than to say as a virologist, he does not believe the virus could have been so contagious when it jumped directly from an animal to a person. Instead, he contends it was manipulated in a Wuhan research laboratory to become more contagious and then accidently released by a worker in September or October 2019, a few months before coming to public attention.
Feng said the experts agreed that is was most likely that the virus had jumped to humans via an intermediate host, and that it is "extremely unlikely" that the virus had leaked from a lab.
According to Daszak, Chinese and international experts agreed that the most likely path the virus took was from an original bat host, which then infected an intermediary in southern China's wildlife farms. Those animals were then sold to a Wuhan wet market, which is thought to have played a central role in the spread of the disease.
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was where a cluster of pneumonia-like cases were first detected in December 2019. It was shut down by Chinese authorities on January 1, 2020 for disinfection, and has been closed to the public since.
On the ground in Wuhan, Daszak and other WHO experts visited the Huanan market and found that it not only sold seafood, but also "wildlife and wildlife products, whole carcasses of animals and live animals of different types" from farms across China.
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The Biden administration announced that “experts” from a range of federal agencies and scientific fields would review the controversial WHO-China report on COVID-19’s origins as the Biden team continues expressing its “ongoing concerns” about how the study was conducted. © Provided by Washington Examiner Trump and Biden officials have said the Chinese government worked to thwart investigations into the origins of the virus, which has killed 2.78 million people worldwide, and both administrations have cast doubt on the manner in which the joint WHO-China study had been conducted in early 2021.
"So there was definitely a pathway that takes animals coming into that market from all over China, including the places where the nearest relatives of SARS-CoV-2 have been found in bats," said Daszak, a British zoologist who studies viral origins in animals and president of EcoHealth Alliance, an environmental health non-profit.
Theof the coronavirus causing Covid-19, known officially as SARS-CoV-2, was previously discovered in horseshoe bats, in China's southwestern Yunnan province, in 2013. Other coronaviruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 have also been .
"So what we found, I think, is pretty important evidence of a way the virus could have emerged from rural China into a big city like Wuhan and led to an outbreak," Daszak said. "And it turns out that at the end of the report, both the China team of experts and the WHO experts all felt this was the most likely pathway that the virus took. We considered this likely to very likely, as a way that this virus would have emerged."
WHO-China study offers no definitive answers on coronavirus origins
The full report into the origins of the pandemic reiterates a lab leak is "extremely unlikely" but raises more questions than it answers.WHO-China study team lead Peter Ben Embarek, visiting the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market on Jan. 31, 2021.
The WHO team was not the first group of scientists to have surveyed the Huanan market. During the initial outbreak in Wuhan, Chinese scientists also went there. But by the time they got there, the market was closed and most of the live animals had already been taken out, Daszak said.
Nevertheless, the Chinese scientists took as much evidence as they could and swabbed over 900 samples, including environmental samples. But all of the animal carcasses they found tested negative for the virus, according to Daszak.
The report also lays out a series of recommendations on what needs to be done to find out more about the origin of the virus, from both the Chinese and the WHO sides.
One key recommendation, following the identification of the potential pathway through wildlife farms, is to go to those farms and interview the owners, their relatives and test people to look for evidence on whether they were infected with Covid-19 earlier than the first known patients in Wuhan, Daszak said.
Researchers should also find out what animals these farms supplied and where they came from, and test animals around the farms to search for "evidence of the virus being there in the wild," he added.
"The next step is to start that work, and we're already lining up the conversations with our China counterparts to begin that process," he said. "This report is really just the beginning."
WHO team leader admits no 'hard facts or detailed data' received from Wuhan lab .
The head of the World Health Organization group that investigated the origins of the novel coronavirus says they didn’t get “hard facts or detailed data” on the work done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. © Provided by Washington Examiner Peter Ben Embarek, an expert on animal diseases and food safety, also stressed that he remains skeptical of the lab leak hypothesis but that it is “definitely not off the table.” China has worked to thwart investigations into the origins of the virus, which turned into a pandemic that has killed 2.55 million people worldwide.