Chinese community officers ‘beat stray dogs to death to prevent them from spreading coronavirus’ 

A group of Chinese community officers have been accused of beating stray dogs to death in broad daylight in the name of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus which has killed 1,018 people.

In a video supplied to MailOnline by animal lovers, one worker can be seen repeatedly hitting a pooch with a huge wooden club.

The horrifying incident took place this morning at a residential complex in the city of Nanchong in Sichuan Province, according to activists.

Two stray dogs were killed at around 9am near Wenfeng Road, Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue said.

MailOnline has decided not to show the footage of the attack due to its graphic nature.

A separate clip shows workers taking away the dogs’ dead bodies after killing them.

The group told MailOnline that residents of the complex, Guibi Garden, were informed yesterday by the community officers that no pet dogs would be allowed outside.

‘As long as [we]see a dog in the complex, no matter if it is on the lead or not, we will beat it to death,’ the officers were quoted saying.

The group condemned the officers’ ‘atrocious’ act.

‘At the crucial point of fighting the epidemic, the management office and community officers should have disinfected the neighbourhood, recorded information of visitors, supervised suspected patients under quarantine, or even given care to the psychological stress and trauma residents got from the epidemic.

‘But instead, [they]ignored citizens’s love and appeal for animals and killed lives at will without giving notice or seeking permission.’

Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue demanded relevant officers halt their act immediately.

‘Before the matter escalates, please stop the atrocity of harming animals,’ it wrote on its official account on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.

One volunteer from the group told MailOnline that it was hard for him and other animal lovers to get to the scene in a timely fashion because the residential complex would not let outsiders enter easily during the outbreak.

He said the two dogs had been healthy and obedient, and that kind residents had fed them an hour before the incident.

The volunteer also showed MailOnline a notice issued by local authorities in response to the matter.

Officials of Nanhu Committee, which supervised the complex, denied online allegations.

They claimed that the video showed the workers culling a stray dog which had bitten some residents and caused panic in the community.

The statement thanked netizens’ understanding and said the workers in question had been reprimanded for killing the animal. It stated that the dog should have been taken to a shelter instead.

The news comes after communities around the country allegedly ordered citizens to get rid of their pets – or risk having them culled – amid fears that animals could also pick up the deadly disease.

World Health Organization (WHO), however, says that it has not seen any evidence of the virus being passed onto cats or dogs.

The widespread fears were sparked by comments made by one of China’s top experts for infectious diseases.

Prof. Li Lanjuan, a member of the senior expert team from China’s National Health Commission, last month warned that pets would also need to be quarantined should they be exposed to coronavirus patients.

Authorities in China are now trying desperately to stop people from throwing away their pets.

Animal welfare organisation Humane Society International (HSI) condemned the Chinese workers’ behaviour.

HSI’s spokesperson Wendy Higgins said: ‘Any evidence of animals being beaten to death in the street is extremely distressing, no matter what the circumstances.

‘If these videos do indeed show dogs being brutally killed in China out of an unwarranted fear of spreading coronavirus, then it is doubly upsetting.

‘Community officers should be charged with disseminating accurate and scientifically supported information to the public at this time, not in carrying out cruel and pointless culls of dogs.

‘The advice by the World Health Organisation that there is no evidence dogs and cats can be infected with the virus, needs to be heard throughout China.’

Apart from the coronavirus, the city of Nanchong is also fighting bird flu.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on Sunday reported that 1,840 out of the 2,497 domesticated birds on a farm in Xichong County were killed by the H5N6 strain of avian influenza.

Local authorities culled 2,261 birds as a result and safely disposed their carcasses – as well as those of the birds killed by the influenza – according to the notice.

The Ministry did not specify on which day the outbreak happened.

The coronavirus epidemic has so far claimed more than 1,018 lives and infected more than 43,130 people in 28 countries and territories around the world – but nearly 99 per cent of infections have been in China.

A total of 103 people died in a single day in China’s Hubei province on Monday – the highest toll recorded in any one 24-hour period since the outbreak began in December.

It comes the same day as WHO experts and scientists have finally arrived in China to help officials there contain and study the outbreak which has now struck at least 42,729 people worldwide.

Chinese community officers ‘beat stray dogs to death to prevent them from spreading coronavirus’ 

The coronavirus is already hurting the world economy. Here’s why it could get really scary

London (CNN Business)Nearly two decades have passed since a coronavirus known as SARS emerged in China, killing hundreds of people and sparking panic that sent a chill through the global economy. The virus now rampaging across China could be much more damaging.

China has become an indispensable part of global business since the 2003 SARS outbreak. It’s grown into the world’s factory, churning out products such as the iPhone and driving demand for commodities like oil and copper. The country also boasts hundreds of millions of wealthy consumers who spend big on luxury productstourism and cars. China’s economy accounted for roughly 4% of world GDP in 2003; it now makes up 16% of global output.
SARS sickened 8,098 people and killed 774 before it was contained. The new coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has already killed more than 700 people and infected over 34,400 across 25 countries and territories. Chinese officials have locked down Wuhan and several other cities, but the virus continues to spread.
“The outbreak has the potential to cause severe economic and market dislocation. But the scale of the impact will ultimately be determined by how the virus spreads and evolves, which is almost impossible to predict, as well as how governments respond,” said Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics.
Compounding the risk is the fact that the world outside China has also changed since 2003.
Globalization has encouraged companies to build supply chains that cut across national borders, making economies much more interconnected. The major central banks have used up much of the ammunition they would typically deploy to fight economic downturns since the 2008 financial crisis, and global debt levels have never been higher. Rising nationalism may make it harder to coordinate a worldwide response, if that’s required.
A resident wears a protective mask while riding a scooter on February 5, 2020, in Wuhan.

The virus is snarling supply chains and disrupting companies.
Car plants across China have been ordered to remain closed following the Lunar New Year holiday, preventing global automakers Volkswagen (VLKAF), Toyota (TM), Daimler (DDAIF), General Motors (GM), Renault (RNLSY), Honda (HMC) and Hyundai (HYMTF) from resuming operations in the world’s largest car market. According to S&P Global Ratings, the outbreak will force carmakers in China to slash production by about 15% in the first quarter. Toyota said on Friday it would keep its factories shut at least until February 17.
Luxury goods makers, which rely on Chinese consumers who spend big at home and while on vacation, have also been hit. British brand Burberry (BBRYF) has closed 24 of its 64 stores in mainland China, and its chief executive warned Friday that the virus is causing a “material negative effect on luxury demand.” Dozens of global airlines have curtailed flights to and from China.
Even more troubling is the threat to global supply chains. Qualcomm (QCOM), the world’s biggest maker of smartphone chips, warned that the outbreak was causing “significant” uncertainty around demand for smartphones, and the supplies needed to produce them. Already, auto parts shortages have forced Hyundai (HYMTF) to close plants in South Korea and caused Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) to make contingency plans to avoid the same result at one of its plants in Europe.
Economists say the current level of disruption is manageable. If the number of new coronavirus cases begins to slow, and China’s factories reopen soon, the result will be a fleeting hit to the Chinese economy in the first quarter and a dent in global growth. If the virus continues to spread, however, the economic damage will increase rapidly.
An employee works on an assembly line at Dongfeng Honda in Wuhan.

Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser to Allianz (ALIZF), told CNN Business that he was most worried about the potential cascading economic effects.
“They first paralyze the region of the virus outbreak,” he said. “Then they gradually spread domestically, undermining internal trade, consumption, production and the movement of people. If the virus is still not contained, the process spreads further, including regionally and internationally by disrupting trade, supply chains and travel.”

Epidemic risk

Economists have a hard time working out the potential costs of epidemics because of their unique characteristics.
Yet diseases can be far more damaging than natural disasters such as hurricanes or a tsunami, or other unpredictable events known as “black swans.” According to a study by the World Bank, a severe pandemic could cause economic losses equal to nearly 5% of global GDP, or more than $3 trillion. Losses from a weaker flu pandemic, such as the 2009 H1N1 virus, can still wipe 0.5% off global GDP.
“A severe pandemic would resemble a global war in its sudden, profound, and widespread impact,” the World Bank assessed in a report on pandemics from 2013. (The Wuhan coronavirus has not been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.)
The virus is not the driving factor behind those losses, however. Instead, it’s the way consumers, businesses and governments respond to an outbreak that matters most.
People are more likely to stay home during an outbreak to avoid getting sick, preventing them from traveling, shopping and working. Doing so limits demand for consumer goods and energy. Decisions by companies and governments to close shops and idle factories, meanwhile, curtail production.
“This is continuing to grow in scope and magnitude. It could end being really, really big, and really, really serious. We can’t project that now,” said William Reinsch, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who spent 15 years as president of the National Foreign Trade Council.
According to Shearing, past epidemics show that China’s economy is likely to take a significant hit in the first quarter. But that will quickly fade from memory if the virus is contained.
“As long as factory closures don’t lead to job losses, by this time next year the level of GDP is unlikely to be very different from what it would have been without the virus,” he said.

What can be done?

China’s government has moved quickly to counter the economic fallout from the coronavirus and the measures taken to contain it.
The People’s Bank of China cut a key interest rate this week and injected huge amounts of cash into markets in order to help take the pressure off banks and borrowers. Officials have also announced new tax breaks and subsidies designed to help consumers.
Yet China is also more vulnerable to a crisis than it was 17 years ago when SARS broke out.
“It has much higher debt, trade tensions with a major trading partner and its growth has been steadily slowing down for a number of years, which gives a weak starting point to face such a crisis,” said Raphie Hayat, a senior economist at Dutch bank ING.
Analysts at Capital Economics expect the government to announce additional measures in the coming days. If the virus keeps spreading, they believe that Beijing will have to abandon its long-running efforts to get its debt under control and pump money directly into the economy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting in Beijing.

Central banks in neighboring countries including Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines have cut interest rates in recent weeks. South Korea and Taiwan could be next.
But the big powers of the financial world are exhausted from a decade fighting anemic growth since the global financial crisis. The European Central Bank introduced negative interest rates in 2014 and hasn’t been able to increase them since, while the Bank of Japan is in a similar position. The US Federal Reserve already cut interest rates three times last year; Chair Jerome Powell has said he’s carefully monitoring the situation.
Meanwhile, debt levels have soared in the United States, Japan and key European countries including Italy, limiting the scope for a big fiscal stimulus if the world economy goes into another tailspin. Global debt, including borrowing by households, governments and companies, has jumped to more than three times the size of the global economy, the highest ratio on record, according to the Institute of International Finance.
Also critical is whether governments are able to coordinate their response to the outbreak, ideally with help from multinational institutions. This is especially true because, according to the World Bank, preparedness for a potential pandemic is low. But coordination may prove difficult in a increasingly fractured world where nationalism is often prized over cooperation.
“It’s quite clear that multinational institutions are under more pressure, and have less teeth on day to day issues than 10 years ago,” Shearing said. “But the optimist in me would like to think that in the face of a global pandemic, global institutions are still in a position to respond.”

Pangolins may have spread coronavirus to humans: What to know about the Wuhan virus

USA TODAY

A Chinese university says scientists identified the heavily trafficked pangolin as a possible intermediary host of the new coronavirus.

The coronavirus from China is believed to have originated in bats and transferred to humans through some other animal, health officials say. The pangolin may be that key link, researchers at South China Agricultural University said Friday.

“This latest discovery will be of great significance for the prevention and control of the origin of the new coronavirus,” South China Agricultural University said in a translated statement.

The research team tested more than 1,000 samples from wild animals and a found a 99% match between the genome sequences of viruses found in pangolins and those in human patients, the AFP reported, citing Chinese state media.

Coronavirus, explained:Everything you need to know about coronavirus, the deadly illness alarming the world

James Wood, a veterinary medicine professor at the University of Cambridge, told the French news agency that more data is needed and showing similarity between the genome sequences alone is “not sufficient.”

“You can only draw more definitive conclusions if you compare prevalence (of the coronavirus) between different species based on representative samples, which these almost certainly are not,” Dirk Pfeiffer, professor of veterinary medicine at Hong Kong’s City University, told Reuters.

Pangolins, the world’s only scaly mammal, have long been valued for their meat, viewed as a delicacy in some Asian countries, and scales, used for traditional medicine, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Recent conservation efforts have worked to protect the eight pangolin species found in Asia and Africa and threatened by illegal international trade. More than 100,000 pangolins are poached every year, according to WildAid, a nonprofit that works on illegal animal trade.

Inside quarantined coronavirus cruise:61 cases onboard; room service, TV and spotty WiFi

New coronavirus cases decline

News of the possible pangolin link to the coronavirus outbreak comes as the World Health Organization cautioned Friday against too much optimism after a decline in new cases over recent days.

“The numbers could go up again … but the last two days were showing a declining trend,” said WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

China reported 31,161 cases in mainland China in its update Friday. The rise of 3,143 was the lowest daily increase since at least Tuesday.

According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University as of Friday, 31,523 people have been infected and 638 killed from the outbreak that first appeared late last year.

The outbreak may have emerged from a market selling seafood and meat in Wuhan. Researchers theorize that someone bought contaminated meat at the market, ate it, got sick and infected others, creating a ripple effect around the world.

However, research in the British medical journal The Lancet suggests the outbreak started earlier than December and casts doubt on the market connection.

While the majority of cases and deaths have been in China, the virus has spread across continents, prompting the WHO to declare a “public health emergency of international concern.”

In the United States, 12 people have been infected, per Johns Hopkins. Federal health officials confirmed last week the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the virus.

Trump, President Xi talk coronavirus

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday he “had a long and very good conversation by phone with President Xi of China” on the country’s response to the coronavirus.

“He will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone,” Trump tweeted.

China’s state media said President Xi Jinping urged the U.S. to “respond reasonably” to the virus outbreak in a phone call with President Donald Trump.

“A people’s war against the virus has been launched,” Xi was quoted as saying by broadcaster CCTV, using timeworn communist terminology, according to the Associated Press. “We hope the U.S. side can assess the epidemic in a calm manner and adopt and adjust its response measures in a reasonable way.”

Beijing has complained that the U.S. was flying its citizens out of Wuhan but not providing any assistance to China.

Chinese Officials Announce “Highly Pathogenic” Strain Of Bird Flu That Can Spread To Humans

After the deadly coronavirus, China is now reporting an outbreak of a dangerous strain of H5N1 bird flu. The outbreak was reported at Shaoyang city in Hunan province and has already killed 4000+ chickens. And, in the wake of the outbreak, Chinese authorities have culled over 17,000 chickens.

People can get infected by coming in to close contact with infected live or dead chickens or through H5N1-contaminated environments and the rate of mortality is about 60%, according to the WHO. They also added that spread of the virus from person to person is unusual.

The farm that saw the outbreak is just south of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus which has now claimed hundreds of lives and spread to other countries, including India, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, France, the United States and Canada. Experts say that meat from wildlife trade may be where the virus originated and a temporary ban has been placed on wild animal trade.

The epidemics also highlight the root of the problem: industrialized animal agriculture. Chickens, cows, pigs and other animals are bred in close quarters with little or no ventilation, living in their own filth, all to cater to our appetite for meat. Now, more than ever, governments and citizens need to take note of how and what we eat is affecting the planet in more ways than one. By simply choosing to go plant-based, one can help reduce the demand for farmed meat worldwide.

*Feature image courtesy Moving Animals Archive

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Read more: Watch The End Of Meat – A Hard-Hitting Documentary That Reveals The Real Impact Of Meat Consumption

Live Animal Markets Worldwide Can Spawn Diseases, Experts Say

FILE - A man looks at caged civet cats in a wildlife market in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, China, Jan. 5, 2204.
FILE – A man looks at caged civet cats in a wildlife market in Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong Province, China, Jan. 5, 2004.

WASHINGTON – The virus that has caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of illnesses worldwide emerged from a market in Wuhan, China, that sold live food animals, including some animals caught in the wild, according to Chinese authorities.

One study suggested a snake may have brought the virus to the market,  but other experts were skeptical. The search for a definitive source continued.

A price list circulated on Chinese social media showed snakes, hedgehogs, peacocks, civet cats, scorpions, centipedes and more for sale at the market.

It’s not the first time these markets have bred a new disease, and experts said it probably won’t be the last. Severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS, originated at a similar market in China in 2002. It ultimately claimed nearly 800 lives.

A Chinese man looks over cages of dogs and rabbits at a live-animal market in Guangzhou, Southern China, Tuesday, Jan 6, 2004…
FILE – A Chinese man looks over cages of dogs and rabbits at a live-animal market in Guangzhou, Southern China, Jan 6, 2004.

Bird flu spread in these markets in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The H5N1 strain of influenza has killed 455 people since 2003.

Without proper sanitation and animal handling, health officials said, these markets can be spawning grounds for diseases.

Live animal markets are found across the developing world, especially in Asia and Africa.

Most animals sold there are healthy. But in the crowded conditions at these markets, one sick animal can infect many more, experts said.

Wild cards

Wild animals introduce a dangerous wild card.

For example, civet cats carried the virus that caused SARS. But scientists think the virus originated in bats.

“In the normal world, these species would never meet,” said veterinarian Tony Goldberg, associate director for research at the University of Wisconsin Global Health Institute.

“But in these live animal markets, they brought those two species together,” he said. “And when you do that in these tight, crowded, stressful conditions, you create every opportunity for these viruses to jump host species.”

The virus could spread when a vendor butchers an animal. Or a sick animal could spread it through its saliva, urine, feces or other secretions.

Humans and domesticated animals have been exposed to each other’s diseases for millennia. We’ve developed some defenses. That’s not the case with a new virus coming from a wild animal, Goldberg said.

A Chinese man carries sacks containing geese at a live-animal market in Guangzhou, Southern China, in this photo taken Jan 6,…
FILE – A Chinese man carries sacks containing geese at a live-animal market in Guangzhou, Southern China, Jan. 6, 2004.

The virus lottery

Given how common these markets are around the world, it’s almost surprising that new outbreaks don’t happen more often, veterinarian William Karesh, executive vice president for health and policy at EcoHealth Alliance, said.

“I’ve gone to a market in Southeast Asia and they’re selling maybe 5,000 or 6,000 bats every week,” he said. “And that’s just one market. As you drive around, there’s 20 or 30 of those markets within a few hours’ drive. So now we’re talking about tens of thousands of bats for sale, and tens of thousands of rats (and other species). And that’s going on throughout much of the world.

“So we’re talking, really, about millions of animals for sale on a daily basis and tens of millions of people shopping there,” Karesh said.

For a virus looking for a different species to infect, he said, it’s like playing the lottery.

“Your chances of winning are pretty high when you’ve got exposure to 10 or 15 or 20 million people every day,” Karesh said.

Traditions

People often don’t shop at these markets by choice, he said. When refrigeration is not available, the best way to get fresh meat is to buy it when it’s still alive. And customers can see if the animal is healthy before they buy it.

Also, many wild-caught foods are “deeply cherished in many cultures around the world,” not just in Africa and Asia, Goldberg said, even if they may carry diseases.

In the United States, rabbits carry tularemia, a bacterial disease that can be fatal. It’s on the list of potential bioterror weapons.

“You’ll see human cases pop up every now and then when rabbit hunters cut themselves when butchering a rabbit,” Goldberg said, adding he knows a rabbit hunter who got tularemia twice.

Packs of Canadian pork are displayed for sale at a supermarket in Beijing, June 18, 2019.
FILE – Packs of Canadian pork are displayed for sale at a supermarket in Beijing, June 18, 2019.

Market shift

The Chinese government closed live animal markets after SARS. But the markets have slowly reopened in the years since.

The government could close them again. But what may ultimately solve the problem is not a government mandate but a cultural shift.

Around the world, Karesh said, more young people are shopping at supermarkets.

“The grocery store is selling chilled refrigerated chicken, and it’s cheaper,” he said. “And people are busy. They’re going to work. They don’t really have time to go to that live animal market anymore.”

Plus, he added, attitudes are changing. Older people may see wild animals as a delicacy. The younger generation? Not so much.

“I don’t think they’re so interested in going to the live animal markets anymore to watch a bat be slaughtered or have a chicken have its throat cut,” he said.

“Twenty years ago, there weren’t many people in China who had pet dogs,” he said. Now, “there’s a new generation of people that when they see a dog, they’re not thinking about food. They’re thinking about, ‘Oh, wow, what a wonderful opportunity to have a pet.’”

The outbreaks of both the Wuhan coronavirus and SARS started in Chinese wet markets. Photos show what the markets look like.

china wet marketchina wet market
Customers in a Chinese wet market on January 22, 2016. 
Edward Wong/South China Morning Post/Getty

The coronavirus spreading in China and the SARS outbreak of 2003 have two things in common: Both are from the coronavirus family, and both started in wet markets.

At such markets, outdoor stalls are squeezed together to form narrow lanes, where locals and visitors shop for cuts of meat and ripe produce. A stall selling hundreds of caged chickens may abut a butcher counter, where uncooked meat is chopped as nearby dogs watch hungrily. Vendors hock skinned hares, while seafood stalls display glistening fish and shrimp.

Wet markets put people and live and dead animals — dogs, chickens, pigs, snakes, civets, and more — in constant close contact. That makes it easy for a virus to jump from animal to human.

On Wednesday, authorities in Wuhan, China — where the current outbreak started — banned the trade of live animals at wet markets. The specific market where the outbreak is believed to have begun, the Huanan Seafood Market, was shuttered on January 1. The coronavirus that emerged there has so far killed 26 people and infected more than 900.

“Poorly regulated, live animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife trade offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spillover from wildlife hosts into the human population,” the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic diseases, meaning they spread to people from animals. In the case of SARS, and likely this Wuhan coronavirus outbreak as well, bats were the original hosts. The bats then infected other animals, which transmitted the virus to humans.

Here’s what Chinese wet markets look like.

The Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan closed on January 1 after it was found to be the most likely starting point for the outbreak of this coronavirus, also called 2019-nCov.

wuhan wet market
Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, on January 12, 2020. 
NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

A 61-year-old man was the first person to die from the virus. According to Bloomberg, he was a regular shopper at the Huanan wet market, which sold more than seafood.

Reports indicated that before the Huanan market closed, vendors there sold processed meats and live animals, including chickens, donkeys, sheep, pigs, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs, and snakes.

wet market fish
A wet market in Beijing on July 3, 2007. 
Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty

Wet markets like Huanan are common around China. They’re called wet markets because vendors often slaughter animals in front of customers.

“That means there’s a lot of skinning of dead animals in front of shoppers and, as a result, aerosolizing of all sorts of things,” according to Emily Langdon, an infectious disease specialist at University of Chicago Medicine.

On Wednesday, Wuhan authorities banned the trade of live animals at wet markets.

china wet market
A wet market in Guilin, China, on June 19, 2014. 
David Wong/South China Morning Post/Getty

Police in Wuhan began conducting checks to enforce the rule among the city’s 11 million residents, the BBC reported, citing state media reports.

This type of intervention could help stop the spread of zoonotic viruses like the Wuhan coronavirus.

wet market china chicken
A wet market in Beijing on July 3, 2007. 
Teh Eng Koon/AFP/Getty

“Governments must recognize the global public health threats of zoonotic diseases,” Christian Walzer, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s health program, said in a statement. “It is time to close live animal markets that trade in wildlife, strengthen efforts to combat trafficking of wild animals, and work to change dangerous wildlife consumption behaviours, especially in cities.”

The close proximity of shoppers to stall vendors and live and dead animals in wet markets make them prime breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases.

china wet market
A Chinese wet market. 
Felix Wong/South China Morning Post/Getty

Between 2002 and 2003, SARS killed 774 people across 29 countries. It originated in wet markets in the province of Guangdong.

civet
An Asian palm civet. 
Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto/Getty

But the civets weren’t the original hosts of the disease.

 

 

Researchers figured out that SARS originally came from a population of bats in China’s Yunnan province.

horseshoe bat
A greater horseshoe bat, a relative of the Rhinolophis sinicus species from China that was the source of the SARS virus. 
De Agostini/Getty

“Coronaviruses like SARS circulate in bats, and every so often they get introduced into the human population,” Vincent Munster, a virologist at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, told Business Insider.

Bats can pass along viruses in their poop: If they drop feces onto a piece of fruit that a civet then eats, the civet can become a disease carrier.

Experts haven’t yet confirmed the animal species that enabled the Wuhan coronavirus to spread to people.

pig wet market
A worker with a slaughtered pig at a wet market in Manila, Philippines. 
Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

“There’s an indication that it’s a bat virus, spread in association with wet markets,” Munster said.

But according to a group of scientists who edit the Journal of Medical Virology, the culprit in this case could be the Chinese cobra.

chinese cobra
A Chinese cobra. 
Thomas Brown

Scientists in China have figured out the genetic code of the Wuhan coronavirus. When researchers compared it with other coronaviruses, they found it to be most similar to two bat coronavirus samples from China.

But further analysis showed that the genetic building blocks of the Wuhan coronavirus more closely resembled that of snakes. According to the researchers, the only way to be sure of where the virus came from is to take DNA samples from animals sold at the Huanan market and from wild snakes and bats in the area.

The H7N9 and H5N9 bird flus — also zoonotic viruses — were likely transmitted to humans in wet markets, too.

wet market ducks china
Ducks on top of chickens at a wet market in Shanghai. 
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty

According to the World Health Organization, people caught those bird flus via direct contact with infected poultry in China. The diseases killed 1,000 people globally.

Bats and birds are considered reservoir species for viruses with pandemic potential, according to Bart Haagmans, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

wet market china chicken
A chicken vendor on top of chicken cages at a wet market in Kowloon City, China. 
Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post/Getty

“Because these viruses have not been circulating in humans before, specific immunity to these viruses is absent in humans,” Haagmans told Business Insider.

“There have been plenty of eminent epidemiologists predicting ‘pandemic X’ for a number of years now,” Adrian Hyzler, the chief medical officer at Healix International, told Business Insider.

wet market china chicken
Live chickens in a wet market in Guangzhou, China. 
K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post/Getty

These pandemics “are more likely to originate in the Far East because of the close contact with live animals [and] the density of the population,” Hyzler added. His firm offers risk-management solutions for global travelers.

The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak isn’t considered a pandemic, however.

wet market china
A seafood stall in a wet market in Hong Kong. 
Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty

Since December 31, more than 900 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been reported across 10 countries, including the US. Symptoms include sore throats, headaches, and fevers, as well as pneumonialike breathing difficulties.

Haagmans said one of the challenges in containing this outbreak was that a substantial portion of infected people show only mild symptoms.

These people “may go unnoticed in tracing the virus and fuel the outbreak,” he said. “It seems that this actually may be the case now.”

Aria Bendix contributed reporting to this story.

 

Snohomish County man with Wuhan coronavirus is being treated largely by a robot

Data pix.

43 people being monitored for possible exposure to coronavirus

v

EVERETT — The first person diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus in the United States is being treated by a few medical workers and a robot.

The robot, equipped with a stethoscope, is helping doctors take the man’s vitals and communicate with him through a large screen, said Dr. George Diaz, chief of the infectious disease division at the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett.

Image of the robot caring for a Snohomish County man with coronavirus (CNN photo)

 

The man, who is in his 30s, was diagnosed with the virus on Monday. He initially went to an urgent care clinic on January 19 and told the staff that he was concerned about possibly having symptoms of the novel coronavirus because he recently traveled to Wuhan, China, Diaz said.

He arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on January 15, before any health screenings began at US airports, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

The Snohomish County resident was in stable condition Thursday and remains in isolation, Diaz said.

Washington state health officials confirmed Thursday that they have reached out to 43 people considered “close contacts” of the 30-year-old man, who identified the people he had interacted with since returning from Wuhan, China. Those contacts will be called daily and actively monitored for signs of any illness.

He arrived at the hospital in a special isolated gurney called an ISOPOD and has been treated in a two-bed isolated area away from busy sections of the hospital, the doctor said.

The gurney that brought in the Snohomish County man who has Wuhan coronavirus (CNN photo)

“The nursing staff in the room move the robot around so we can see the patient in the screen, talk to him,” Diaz said, adding the use of the robot minimizes exposure of medical staff to the infected man.

It’s unclear when the patient will be released because the CDC, which is set to provide the discharge details, has recommended additional testing.

“They’re looking for ongoing presence of the virus,” Diaz told CNN on Thursday. “They’re looking to see when the patient is no longer contagious.”

About two weeks ago, the hospital tested its protocol for treating patients with highly contagious diseases such as MERS and Ebola. The hospital made changes after the Ebola outbreak.

“That’s why we set up protocols that will allow us to treat patients with infectious diseases in a way that we can isolate them without spreading the virus to anyone,” Diaz told CNN en Español.

Washington state health officials confirmed Thursday they have been reaching out to 43 people considered to be “close contacts” of the patient.

The department defined “close contacts” as anyone who interacted with the patient and came within 3 to 6 feet of the infected person, for a prolonged period of time while infectious or had direct contact with his secretions.

The virus has killed at least 25 people in China, seven of whom did not have preexisting conditions before they contracted the illness, and sickened more than 800, as far afield as the US.

The true extent of the Wuhan coronavirus is unclear, however, and official figures may be an underestimation as mild symptoms and delayed onset mean cases are likely to have been undetected, a team of scientists have said.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency committee has said it’s too early to declare the outbreak an international public health emergency.

Coronavirus: How worried should we be? Which animal?

  • 22 January 2020

 

Which animal?

Once the animal reservoir (where the virus normally camps out) is detected, then the problem becomes much easier to deal with.

The coronavirus cases have been linked to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market, in Wuhan.

But while some sea-going mammals can carry coronaviruses (such as the Beluga whale), the market also has live wild animals, including chickens, bats, rabbits, snakes,  [ALL BEING HELD CAPTIVE!], which are more likely to be the source.

WuhanImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe outbreak occurred in the city of Wuhan, south of Beijing

A virus – previously unknown to science – is causing severe lung disease in China and has also been detected in other countries.

At least 17 people are known to have died from the virus, which appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

There are already hundreds of confirmed cases, and experts expect the number will keep rising.

A new virus arriving on the scene, leaving patients with pneumonia, is always a worry and health officials around the world are on high alert.

But is this a brief here-today-gone-tomorrow outbreak or the first sign of something far more dangerous?

What is this virus?

Officials in China have confirmed the cases are caused by a coronavirus.

These are a broad family of viruses, but only six (the new one would make it seven) are known to infect people.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which is caused by a coronavirus, killed 774 of the 8,098 people infected in an outbreak that started in China in 2002.

“There is a strong memory of Sars, that’s where a lot of fear comes from, but we’re a lot more prepared to deal with those types of diseases,” says Dr Josie Golding, from the Wellcome Trust.

How severe are the symptoms?

It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough and then, after a week, leads to shortness of breath and some patients needing hospital treatment.

But most of our knowledge is based on the severe cases that end up in hospital. It is unknown how many mild or even symptomless cases are out there.

The coronavirus family itself can cause symptoms ranging from a mild cold all the way through to death.

“When we see a new coronavirus, we want to know how severe are the symptoms. This is more than cold-like symptoms and that is a concern but it is not as severe as Sars,” says Prof Mark Woolhouse, from the University of Edinburgh.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is considering declaring an international public health emergency – as it did with swine flu and Ebola.

How deadly is it?

Seventeen people are known to have died from the virus – just over 3% of the known cases.

But the infection seems to take a while to kill, so more of those patients may yet die.

And it is unclear how many unreported cases there are.

Where has it come from?

New viruses are detected all the time.

They jump from one species, where they went unnoticed, into humans.

“If we think about outbreaks in the past, if it is a new coronavirus, it will have come from an animal reservoir,” says Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham.

Sars started off in bats and then infected the civet cat, which in turn passed it on to humans.

And Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), which has killed 858 out of the 2,494 recorded cases since it emerged in 2012, regularly makes the jump from the dromedary camel.

Which animal?

Once the animal reservoir (where the virus normally camps out) is detected, then the problem becomes much easier to deal with.

The coronavirus cases have been linked to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market, in Wuhan.

But while some sea-going mammals can carry coronaviruses (such as the Beluga whale), the market also has live wild animals, including chickens, bats, rabbits, snakes, which are more likely to be the source.

Why China?

Prof Woolhouse says it is because of the size and density of the population and close contact with animals harbouring viruses.

“No-one is surprised the next outbreak is in China or that part of the world,” he says.

How easily does it spread between people?

At the beginning of the outbreak, the Chinese authorities said the virus was not spreading between people – but now, such cases have been identified.

“It is crystal clear there is human-to-human transmission,” says Prof Peter Horby, from the University of Oxford.

“The critical question is how transmissible is it. Is this going to be sustainable?”

Sars spread between people but Mers finds it quite difficult and requires close contact.

The new virus infects the lungs, so coughs and sneezes are a likely route of transmission.

It will also be important to find out whether some people are more vulnerable to infection or likely to transmit the virus.

When the virus is infectious is also unknown.

Is it before symptoms appear, which is when flu spreads, or when they are most severe?

How fast is it spreading?

It might appear as though cases have soared, from 40 to more than 500 in less than a week. But this is misleading.

Most of the “new” cases were already out there but have only just been detected as China steps up its surveillance.

There is actually very little information on the “growth rate” of the outbreak.

But experts say the number of people becoming sick is likely to be far higher than the reported figures.

A report by the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London said: “It is likely that the Wuhan outbreak of a novel coronavirus has caused substantially more cases of moderate or severe respiratory illness than currently reported.”

While the outbreak is centred on Wuhan, there have been cases reported in Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the US.

All but one of those cases had travelled from Wuhan – but one, in Thailand, was due to local spread there.

There are concerns that the virus could be spread by the hundreds of millions of people travelling for Chinese New Year later this month.

Could the virus mutate?

Yes, you would expect viruses to mutate and evolve all the time. But what this means is harder to tell.

The novel coronavirus has jumped from one species to another. It could mutate to become easier to spread from one person to another or to have more severe symptoms.

This is something scientists will be watching closely.

How can the virus be stopped?

There is no vaccine, so the only way of stopping the virus spreading is to diagnose people early and treat them in isolation.

Tracing and monitoring people who have come into contact with patients can help prevent further spread.

Further measures could include travel restrictions and banning mass gatherings.

How have Chinese authorities responded?

Public health checksImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionTemperature screening can help identify people who have been infected

China’s National Health Commission said travellers should avoid Wuhan and residents should not leave the city.

Infected people have been treated in isolation to minimise the risk of the bug spreading.

Extra checks such as temperature scans have been put in place to screen travellers.

And the seafood market was closed for cleaning and disinfection.

How is the world responding?

Most Asian countries have stepped up screenings of travellers from Wuhan and the WHO has warned hospitals worldwide a wider outbreak is possible.

Singapore and Hong Kong have been screening air passengers from Wuhan and authorities in the US and the UK have announced similar measures.

However, questions remain about the effectiveness of such measures.

If it takes five days for symptoms to appear, then someone could easily be halfway round the world and have passed through any screening checks before starting to feel ill.

How worried are the experts?

Dr Golding says: “At the moment, until we have more information, it’s really hard to know how worried we should be.

“Until we have confirmation of the source, that’s always going to make us uneasy.”

Prof Ball says: “We should be worried about any virus that explores humans for the first time, because it’s overcome the first major barrier.

“Once inside a [human] cell and replicating, it can start to generate mutations that could allow it to spread more efficiently and become more dangerous.

“You don’t want to give the virus the opportunity.”

Snakes could be the original source of the new coronavirus outbreak in China

 

Chinese cobra (Naja atra) with hood spread. Briston/WikimediaCC BY-SA

Snakes – the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra – may be the original source of the newly discovered coronavirus that has triggered an outbreak of a deadly infectious respiratory illness in China this winter.

The many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus), also known as the Taiwanese krait or the Chinese krait, is a highly venomous species of elapid snake found in much of central and southern China and Southeast Asia. Briston/WikimediaCC BY-SA

The illness was first reported in late December 2019 in Wuhan, a major city in central China, and has been rapidly spreading. Since then, sick travelers from Wuhan have infected people in China and other countries, including the United States.

Using samples of the virus isolated from patients, scientists in China have determined the genetic code of the virus and used microscopes to photograph it. The pathogen responsible for this pandemic is a new coronavirus. It’s in the same family of viruses as the well-known severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which have killed hundreds of people in the past 17 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

We are virologists and journal editors and are closely following this outbreak because there are many questions that need to be answered to curb the spread of this public health threat.

What is a coronavirus?

The name of coronavirus comes from its shape, which resembles a crown or solar corona when imaged using an electron microscope.

The electron microscopic image, reveals the crown shape structural details for which the coronavirus was named. This image is of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Coronavirus is transmitted through the air and primarily infects the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tract of mammals and birds. Though most of the members of the coronavirus family only cause mild flu-like symptoms during infection, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV can infect both upper and lower airways and cause severe respiratory illness and other complications in humans.

This new 2019-nCoV causes similar symptoms to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. People infected with these coronaviruses suffer a severe inflammatory response.

Unfortunately, there is no approved vaccine or antiviral treatment available for coronavirus infection. A better understanding of the life cycle of 2019-nCoV, including the source of the virus, how it is transmitted and how it replicates are needed to both prevent and treat the disease.

Zoonotic transmission

Both SARS and MERS are classified as zoonotic viral diseases, meaning the first patients who were infected acquired these viruses directly from animals. This was possible because while in the animal host, the virus had acquired a series of genetic mutations that allowed it to infect and multiply inside humans.

Now these viruses can be transmitted from person to person. Field studies have revealed that the original source of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV is the bat, and that the masked palm civets (a mammal native to Asia and Africa) and camels, respectively, served as intermediate hosts between bats and humans.

In the case of this 2019 coronavirus outbreak, reports state that most of the first group of patients hospitalized were workers or customers at a local seafood wholesale market which also sold processed meats and live consumable animals including poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs and reptiles. However, since no one has ever reported finding a coronavirus infecting aquatic animals, it is plausible that the coronavirus may have originated from other animals sold in that market.

The hypothesis that the 2019-nCoV jumped from an animal at the market is strongly supported by a new publication in the Journal of Medical Virology. The scientists conducted an analysis and compared the genetic sequences of 2019-nCoV and all other known coronaviruses.

The study of the genetic code of 2019-nCoV reveals that the new virus is most closely related to two bat SARS-like coronavirus samples from China, initially suggesting that, like SARS and MERS, the bat might also be the origin of 2019-nCoV. The authors further found that the viral RNA coding sequence of 2019-nCoV spike protein, which forms the “crown” of the virus particle that recognizes the receptor on a host cell, indicates that the bat virus might have mutated before infecting people.

But when the researchers performed a more detailed bioinformatics analysis of the sequence of 2019-nCoV, it suggests that this coronavirus might come from snakes.

The Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, where the coronavirus outbreak is believed to have started, is now closed. AP Photo/Dake Kang

From bats to snakes

The researchers used an analysis of the protein codes favored by the new coronavirus and compared it to the protein codes from coronaviruses found in different animal hosts, like birds, snakes, marmots, hedgehogs, manis, bats and humans. Surprisingly, they found that the protein codes in the 2019-nCoV are most similar to those used in snakes.

Snakes often hunt for bats in wild. Reports indicate that snakes were sold in the local seafood market in Wuhan, raising the possibility that the 2019-nCoV might have jumped from the host species – bats – to snakes and then to humans at the beginning of this coronavirus outbreak. However, how the virus could adapt to both the cold-blooded and warm-blooded hosts remains a mystery.

The authors of the report and other researchers must verify the origin of the virus through laboratory experiments. Searching for the 2019-nCoV sequence in snakes would be the first thing to do. However, since the outbreak, the seafood market has been disinfected and shut down, which makes it challenging to trace the new virus’ source animal.

Sampling viral RNA from animals sold at the market and from wild snakes and bats is needed to confirm the origin of the virus. Nonetheless, the reported findings will also provide insights for developing prevention and treatment protocols.

The 2019-nCoV outbreak is another reminder that people should limit the consumption of wild animals to prevent zoonotic infections.

Giant Chinese paddlefish declared extinct after surviving 150 million years

Beijing — Scientists say a giant fish species that managed to survive at least 150 million years has been completely wiped out by human activity. Research published in the Science of The Total Environment this week says the giant Chinese paddlefish, also known as the Chinese swordfish, is officially extinct.

The monster fish, one of the largest freshwater species in the world with lengths up to 23 feet, was once common in China’s Yangtze River. Due to its speed it was commonly referred to in China as the “water tiger.”

giant-chinese-paddlefish.jpg
A model of a giant Chinese paddlefish is seen on display in Chongqing, China.CCTV/REUTERS

Study leader Qiwei Wei of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences called it “a reprehensible and an irreparable loss.”

Zeb Hogan, a fish expert at the University of Nevada, Reno, told National Geographic that it was “very sad” to see the “definitive loss of a very unique and extraordinary animal, with no hope of recovery.”

According to the researchers, no giant paddlefish have been sighted in the Yangtze since 2003, and there are none in captivity. They estimate that the last of the fish likely died between 2005 and 2010.

paddlefish-china-graphic.jpg
A graphic provided by the Science of The Total Environment report in January 2020 shows a timeline depicting the depletion of the giant Chinese paddlefish species in the Yangtze River.SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT

The species had been deemed “functionally extinct,” or unable to reproduce enough to maintain itself, since 1993.

The main causes of the ancient species’ demise have been listed as over-fishing and the construction of a major dam in 1981 that split the Yangtze, and the Chinese paddlefish population along with it, in two.

The 3,900 mile Yangtze River ecosystem has seen half of the 175 species unique to its waters go extinct, according to Chinese media.

Two other species native to the river have also been declared functionally extinct: the reeves shad and the Yangtze dolphin.

Last week China announced a 10-year fishing ban on some areas of the Yangtze in a bid to protect its beleaguered biodiversity.