What is COVID-19 and how the COVID-19 pandemic began
In the 2011 film contagion the filmmakers set the scenario for a disease outbreak that threatens to destabilize society when Beth Emhoff played by Gwyneth Paltrow returns home from a Hong Kong business trip, she brings with her a deadly new disease two days later she’s dead and the film traces the spread of the disease from her to a global pandemic.
This chill inducing scenario attributes the origin of the disease to a piece of pork from a pig that had been exposed to contamination via about dropping 10 years later and the film has earned a new cult following as the world braces itself for the impact of a new disease the outbreak of the SARS coronavirus in 2002.
Infected more than 8,000 people and nearly 800 people died almost two decades. Later the outbreak of a new coronavirus named by the w-h-o as covered 19 has created a health care crisis unseen in a generation both of the outbreaks began in China and when tracing their origins both viruses were found to likely originate from wet markets.
So why have we seen multiple new diseases emerge from China and how conclusive is the link to wet markets many viruses and diseases that we live through have originated from animals including coronaviruses with SARS. The virus was traced to civet cats while we’ve covid 19 early reports indicated that infection from a bat had crossed into a Pangolin and then into a human.
The precise location had been narrowed down to a specific wet market in Wuhan however, those early studies have since been brought in to refute it remains unclear and unlikely that a Pangolin was involved in addition the established timeline of the outbreak which enables researchers to identify a specific wet market is also under question.
It seems most likely that bats were the original carriers but other details are unclear back in 2003 if the corona virus outbreak that in China it was not understood immediately, what had happened so the Chinese took this very seriously and towards the end of the outbreak they began to do some studies in the animal markets in China.
This was never completed because the funding dried out and the interest in the outbreak waned after the outbreak had been fully contained which is unfortunate, because had that research continued they could have possibly done more to find out what was going on and how you might prevent these in the future. Wet-Markets are common in Asia where many locals shop for groceries in some live animals are available for slaughter and sold for consumption.
The range of animals available their proximity to one another and the poor enforcement of regulations has turned some of these markets into a catalyst type environment for viruses to make the leap from animals to humans. There are many reasons why viruses tend to emerge in China and Southeast Asia. A lot of which we’re not really going to be able to change so you can try to sanitize the environments in which people breathe and sell meat they’re always going to be preaches that kind of biosecurity.
A wide variety of animals can be kept in close proximity stacked atop one another in squalid conditions hygiene is compromised, when fluids from animals slaughter or excretions mix these conditions create an opportunity for a virus to make the jump between other animals.
Which can then infect humans when handled or consumed a metaphorical petri dish cultivating potential infection combinations and it also different traders. Lots of different different ways of keeping the play place clean, and you’ve got this open space. You’ve got consumers moving around so there’s an incredible potential pop and movement of capital transitional vegetables. While wet-markets aren’t unique to China.
The markets in China have a few components that work in conjunction to make these environments particularly worrying in the potential for new disease. Firstly the variety of animals from common farming animals to the exotic and sometimes endangered species animals which can be slaughtered, on site kept in close proximity and in unhygienic conditions, and finally the markets are located in and around densely populated.
Chinese cities which enables the rapid spread of the new disease once it crosses into humans and that there is a risk that those infectious organisms can be transmitted from an animal to a human, and I do think that they need to have some oversight because these are potential biohazard risks just like we have oversight over a nuclear plant.
I think that’s what the real issue is can you do this safely this utilization and farming of the wildlife in China has been encouraged by the government and is supported by legislation in the 1970s in response to poverty and famine. Which killed more than 36 million people the desperate communist regime allowed some private farming to return and gave up control of total food production.
This is where the majority of wildlife farming in China began that the Chinese government intent on supporting small farmers encouraged this practice in 1988. The Chinese government enacted legislation which protected the lawful rights and interests of people developing or utilizing wildlife called the wildlife protection law.
It extended special state protection to anyone intending to domesticate and breed wildlife with wildlife farming sanctioned by the state this increased the variety of wild animals in farms in China. The use of exotic and often endangered animals remains a problem some wet markets have operated in tandem with the illegal trade of endangered animals providing the opportunity for endangered and rare species of animal to end up in close proximity to other exotic animals.
In response to the outbreak of SARS China banned wildlife farming and shut down wet markets only to lift the ban on 54 species of animal including the civet cat which SARS was traced to shortly after the outbreak. In response to covid-19 the Chinese government has placed a temporary ban on the farming and consumption of wildlife animals and is reportedly amending the wildlife protection law.
But ending the trade outright could prove to be difficult we really need to interface between livestock and wild animals in humans and waters and that’s where the Matt mark is coming but at the same time. I mean going in there shutting down wet-markets is not that simple because they’re part of people living within aquaculture and there’s also demand for these products.
At the moment you don’t allow the markets anymore those products will be sold by the internet the cultural roots of China’s use of wildlife are extensive not just for food but also for traditional medicine, clothing, ornaments and social status. The new ban leaves an exemption for wildlife used in traditional Chinese medicine or TCM the use of traditional medicine is strongly promoted by the government.
New laws introduced in 2017 legitimized TCM practices by requiring practitioners to pass tests and for TCM institutions to be produced into hospitals, for example the ban prohibits the consumption of pangolins but it doesn’t ban the use of their scales. In traditional Chinese medicine while China has offered assurance on regulation there’s concern that this potential loophole will allow for the continued trade and consumption of exotic animals.
An important point worth noting is the very limited popularity of these practices in the greater population wet markets in China, really are part of the fabric of everyday life. Here one trend that has come more recently is this interest in eating its exotic wildlife it’s not something that everybody does. What is always the issue with regulating things in China is that this is a vast country it’s a country of 1.4 billion people and so there’s always a challenge for officials on the ground, to be able to make sure that everyone is doing what they’re meant to be doing.
So with all of this in terms of wet markets in general being again so much a part of everyday life. It just gets to be really difficult when you’re looking at how to make sure all the vendors they are selling only things that they’re licensed to sell. China is not the only country where these emergence events occur and so what we need to understand is more how we can make populations understand the risks of buying these live animals and how they can protect themselves.
If they do what covet 19 indicates clearly is our global interconnectedness and in the case of outbreaks total containment to a localized region is virtually impossible initially in the Covid 19 outbreak China, clamped down on the epicenter of that virus by making sure that people were confined to their houses and attempting to stop international travel from that area and also travel within China.
They had hoped that they could interrupt the transmission of this virus as well it appears that reports on covid 19 were suppressed and whistleblowers were detained by local authorities. But once the Chinese state was aware of the outbreak it moved quickly to implement lockdown in Wuhan with draconian measures far exceeding those. In the West managing to dramatically slow the spread of the disease but unable to prevent it completely.
Well the Chinese government Chinese officials did announce at the end of last year that they were investigating a novel coronavirus what we know now is that there were cases from early December. Which means the patients were potentially symptomatic back in November as though we’ve continued there were more and more evidence that medical staff had been infected. Which is one of the first hints that human to human transmission is possible but again China didn’t announce this until late January.
So there was potentially much more that the officials here were aware of but for whatever reason didn’t make that very clear to the public until later on, by the time we knew about it we’re about at a time even the central Chinese government knew about it this was not going to be contained in China.
The fact that China was able to get the epidemic under control at least temporarily speaks to just the unique level of control that the government can have. I think that what we’re seeing now in Europe and the states is the fact that in those kinds of society is that level of control is just not possible. Total containment of a rapidly spreading infection could only be achieved through total isolation or quarantine. Without that unlikely measure in place our best opportunity for success remains international cooperation and transparency on the global health matters.
I don’t think that closing borders is going to ever stop this virus and if you look at what happened of the travel bans that were initiated when this outbreak was announced they had no real effect. I could say no measurable effect and it also takes public health resources to enforce those travel bans you have people doing things with airports.
You have people quarantined that come back from those places all of that takes away precious public health resources that really should have been devoted to case finding and diagnostic testing and hospital preparedness.
Viral spread flourishes in the wake of human error political candor and transparency global cooperation strong regional health systems and scientific research remain our most valuable assets in the war against the spread of a new infectious disease. Malfeasance in animal farming leading to disease is by no means a China only problem as exemplified by the outbreak of mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Mankind has a long history of zoonotic diseases from anthrax to Listeria and Ebola to HIV both animal husbandry and wild animal interactions have carried risks from across the world. Fostering an international compliance on all farming and wildlife practices that mitigate the spread of new disease could prove to be a Herculean task.
Politically the diplomatic hurdles set by the coronavirus crisis will be a great test for the international community and could be a factor that determines. If and not when we see another disease outbreak like covered 19. What I want to see is this abandonment of this panic in neglect cycle where there’s panic to get something under control, and then when something receives from headlines it then becomes a cycle of neglect.
We saw that after h1n1 we saw that after Ebola we’ve seen that after Middle East respiratory syndrome we’ve seen it at for Zika virus that happens over and over again. It’s very difficult to say what will happen after this outbreak or this pandemic, is finally contained or mitigated in such a way that people can get back to a semblance of normal life.
This will certainly have an impact on how we move forward and hopefully the political memory of this pandemic will be longer than was the memory for the SARS outbreak to be able to deal with this, we need to repair of the table working against each other. Pulling up offenses is not going to keep it out so it needs global risk governance. I would hope that they all realize is by now the tip helped us they can’t stop it. I just wonder whether this this shock the mom is actually strong enough to convince national governments and they need to come together.
Tuccho advises and requests everyone to sanitize them-self, clean your hand, wear a mask, and stay home. Be safe and keep the world safe.