What you need to know about the COVID-19 lab-leak hypothesis

Wuhan Institute of Virology
A security official moves journalists away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after a World Health Organization team arrived for a field visit in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.PHOTOGRAPH BY NG HAN GUAN, AP

Newly reported information has revived scrutiny of this possible origin for the coronavirus, which experts still call unlikely though worth investigating.BYJILLIAN KRAMERPUBLISHED JUNE 4, 2021• 7 MIN READ

Months after a World Health Organization investigation deemed it “extremely unlikely” that the novel coronavirus escaped accidentally from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, the idea is back in the news, giving new momentum to a hypothesis that many scientists believe is unlikely, and some have dismissed as a conspiracy theory.

The renewed attention comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s ordering U.S. intelligence agencies on May 26 to “redouble their efforts” to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. On May 11, Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, acknowledged he’s now “not convinced” the virus developed naturally—an apparent pivot from what he told National Geographic in an interview last year. 

Also last month, more than a dozen scientists—top epidemiologists, immunologists, and biologists—wrote a letter published in the journal Science calling for a thorough investigation into two viable origin stories: natural spillover from animal to human, or an accident in which a wild laboratory sample containing SARS-CoV-2 was accidentally released. They urged that both hypotheses “be taken seriously until we have sufficient data,” writing that a proper investigation would be “transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight,” with conflicts of interest minimized, if possible.

“Anytime there is an infectious disease outbreak it is important to investigate its origin,” says Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security who did not contribute to the letter in Science. “The lab-leak hypothesis is possible—as is an animal spillover,” he says, “and I think that a thorough, independent investigation of its origins should be conducted.”

Unanswered questions

The origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 and has infected more than 171 million people, killing close to 3.7 million worldwide as of June 4, remain unclear. Many scientists, including those that participated in the WHO’s months-long investigation, believe the most likely explanation is that that it jumped from an animal to a person—potentially from a bat directly to a human, or through an intermediate host. Animal-to-human transmission is a common route for many viruses; at least two other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, were spread through such zoonotic spillover.

Other scientists insist it’s worth investigating whether SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a laboratory that has studied coronaviruses in bats for more than a decade.

The WHO investigation—a joint effort between WHO-appointed scientists and Chinese officials—concluded it was “extremely unlikely” the highly transmissible virus escaped from a laboratory. But the WHO team suffered roadblocks that led some to question its conclusions; the scientists were not permitted to conduct an independent investigation and were denied access to any raw data. (We still don’t know the origins of the coronavirus. Here are 4 scenarios.)

On March 30, when the WHO released its report, its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called for further studies. “All hypotheses remain on the table,” he said at the time.

Then on May 11, Fauci told PolitiFact that while the virus most likely emerged via animal-to-human transmission, “it could have been something else, and we need to find that out.”

Recently disclosed evidence, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, has added fuel to the fire: Three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell sick in November 2019 and sought hospital care, according to a U.S. intelligence report. In the final days of the Trump administration, the State Department released a statement that researchers at the institute had become ill with “symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illness.”

Most epidemiologists and virologists who have studied the novel coronavirus believe that it began spreading in November 2019. China says the first confirmed case was on December 8, 2019. During a briefing in Beijing this week, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, accused the U.S. of “hyping up the theory of a lab leak,” and asked, “does it really care about the study of origin tracing, or is it trying to divert attention?” Zhao also denied the Wall Street Journalreport that three people had gotten sick.

Lab leak still ‘unlikely’

Some conservative politicians and commentators have embraced the lab-leak theory, while liberals more readily rejected it, especially early in the pandemic. The speculation has also heightened ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China.

On May 26, as the U.S. Senate passed a bill to declassify intelligence related to potential links between the Wuhan laboratory and COVID-19, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said, “the world needs to know if this pandemic was the product of negligence at the Wuhan lab,” and lamented that “for over a year, anyone asking questions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology has been branded as a conspiracy theorist.”

Peter Navarro, Donald Trump’s former trade adviser, asserted in April 2020 that SARS-CoV-2 could have been engineered as a bioweapon, without citing any evidence.

The theory that SARS-CoV-2 was created as a bioweapon is “completely unlikely,” says William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. For one thing, he explains, for a bioweapon to be successful, it must target an adversarial population without affecting one’s own. In contrast, SARS-CoV-2 “cannot be controlled,” he says. “It will spread, including back on your own population,” making it an extremely “counterproductive biowarfare agent.”

The more plausible lab-leak hypothesis, scientists say, is that the Wuhan laboratory isolated the novel coronavirus from an animal and was studying it when it accidentally escaped. “Not knowing the extent of its virulence and transmissibility, a lack of protective measures [could have] resulted in laboratory workers becoming infected,” initiating the transmission chain that ultimately resulted in the pandemic, says Rossi Hassad, an epidemiologist at Mercy College.

But Hassad adds he believes that this lab-leak theory is on the “extreme low end” of possibilities, and it “will quite likely remain only theoretical following any proper scientific investigation,” he says.

Biden ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to report back with their findings in 90 days, which would be August 26.

Based on the available information, Eyal Oren, an epidemiologist at San Diego State University, says it’s apparent why the most accepted hypothesis is that this virus originated in an animal and jumped to a human: “What is clear is that the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 virus is similar to other coronaviruses found in bats,” he says.

Some scientists remain skeptical that concrete conclusions can be drawn. “At the end, I anticipate that the question” of SARS-CoV-2’s origins “will remain unresolved,” Schaffner says.

In the meantime, science “moves much more slowly than the media and news cycles,” Oren says.

Activists Stage “Eating Animals Causes Pandemics” Rally in NYC

MAY 2, 2021 BY DONNY MOSS — LEAVE A COMMENThttps://www.facebook.com/plugins/share_button.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Ftheirturn.net%2F2021%2F05%2F02%2Factivists-stage-eating-animals-causes-pandemics-rally-in-nyc%2F&layout=button&size=small&appId=560935960731324&width=67&height=21https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/tweet_button.06c6ee58c3810956b7509218508c7b56.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&original_referer=https%3A%2F%2Ftheirturn.net%2F2021%2F05%2F02%2Factivists-stage-eating-animals-causes-pandemics-rally-in-nyc%2F&size=m&text=Activists%20Stage%20%22Eating%20Animals%20Causes%20Pandemics%22%20Rally%20in%20NYC%20-%20Their%20Turn&time=1620069625899&type=share&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftheirturn.net%2F2021%2F05%2F02%2Factivists-stage-eating-animals-causes-pandemics-rally-in-nyc%2FShare on TumblrSave

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On May 1st, dozens of conservationists and animal rights activists staged a rally in Times Square to help members of the public connect the dots between eating animals and pandemics. Their message was simple: “Eating Animals Causes Pandemics.” The New York City rally was one of approximately 60 that took place in 20 countries around the world in support of International Pandemic Outreach Day.https://www.youtube.com/embed/M_AfsUPXW1k?feature=oembed

The Eating Animals Causes Pandemics campaign is a collaboration among animal rights, environmental, conservation and religious organizations. It emerged as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19, which is believed to have jumped to humans in a live animal market in China. Like many of the pandemics that preceded it, including the catastrophic Spanish Flu of 1918, COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease — one that is transmitted to humans from a non-human animal.

On International Pandemic Outreach Day, advocates in New York City spoke to hundreds of pedestrians whose attention they captured with their hazmat suits and posters. Most were not aware that outbreaks of avian flu, swine flu and a human version of mad cow disease are caused by our consumption of chickens, pigs and cows.

Factory farms are a breeding ground for infectious diseases, which could easily spread among the animals and, if zoonotic, to humans

The COVID-19 pandemic shined a global spotlight on the infectious disease risks associated with live animal markets, but zoonotic diseases can – and do – emerge in factory farms, slaughterhouses and any other setting where animals are intensively confined and/or slaughtered for human consumption. Dr. Michael Gregor, the author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching (2016) has said, “If you actually want to create pandemics, then build factory farms.”

Conservationists and animal rights activists staged a rally in Times Square to raise awareness about the connection between eating animals and pandemics

Covid-19 deaths are accelerating, WHO warns, as world records most cases ever in a single week


By Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 9:27 AM ET, Tue April 20, 2021

Overwhelmed Indian hospitals are turning patients away

Now PlayingOverwhelmed Indian…Overwhelmed Indian hospitals are turning patients away 02:29

(CNN)Covid-19 infections have been rising at an alarming rate for eight consecutive weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, as the virus sweeps unabated through hotspots in several corners of the globe.More than 5.2 million new cases were recorded last week — the most in a single week since the pandemic began — WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing in Geneva on Monday.Deaths also increased for the fifth straight week, he said, with the pandemic now officially claiming more than 3 million lives.

And Tedros warned that the pace of the pandemic is accelerating, even as some countries tout their own improved vaccination programs.

“It took nine months to reach 1 million deaths, four months to reach 2 million and three months to reach 3 million deaths,” said Tedros. “Big numbers can make us numb, but each one of these deaths is a tragedy for families, communities and nations.”

And, as more at-risk or older adults are fully inoculated and some economies open up, the director-general suggested the brunt of the virus’s spread may be shifting towards younger adults. He told reporters that infections and hospitalizations among people age 25 to 59 are “increasing at an alarming rate,” possibly due to highly transmissible variants and increased social mixing among younger people.Concerns about more young adults contracting Covid-19 have already been reported by doctors in some hotspots — including Brazil, where a new variant has caused a devastating surge in hospitalizations and deaths.

Shots ramp up as variants cause concern

The stark warning from WHO serves as a reminder of the state of the pandemic, which has not yet dissipated in the face of the world’s disparate vaccine rollouts.India is suffering from a calamitous second wave of the virus, and a significant portion of the world’s infections is occurring there. The country has reported more than 200,000 new cases on each of the past six days — nearly 1.5 million in the last week — and crowded hospitals are turning away patients as they battle the spread.Among India’s many active cases is former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in stable condition in hospital after contracting Covid-19.

India will offer Covid-19 vaccines to everyone 18+ in May

India will offer Covid-19 vaccines to everyone 18+ in MayWith more than 15 million infections, the country is now only second to the United States in global case tallies. The US has reported almost 32 million infections.England added India to its travel ban list on Monday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled a scheduled trip there, but political campaigning is ongoing despite the dire situation.Narendra Modi’s ruling party said it would hold “small public gatherings” with a cap of 500 people in the state of West Bengal, one of the five states where state elections are currently being held, according to a statement from the party Monday.Much of Asia is similarly grappling with increasing cases. A surge in Thailand has dampened hopes of welcoming more tourists there, with hospitality venues identified as a cause of recent outbreaks.In the US, where millions of people are being vaccinated daily, cases and hospitalizations have risen over the past month. Experts cite coronavirus variants — including the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain that recently fueled another surge in Michigan — and a spreading sense of pandemic fatigue as contributing factors.Meanwhile, in Europe, there are some signs of a plateau in the continent’s third wave of infections, and a bumpy vaccine rollout has started accelerating across the European Union.

But vaccine hesitancy and the lingering effects of earlier vaccine scares there are still evident; a mass vaccination center in the southern French city of Nice was forced to close early over the weekend after just 58 people turned up for 4,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — which may be linked to a very small number of rare blood clot cases — a spokesman for the regional police told CNN.And European regulators face another decision about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which US authorities paused after a handful of clotting cases were reported. A decision by the European Medicines Agency on the shot is expected Tuesday.

CNN’s Naomi Thomas, Christina Maxouris and Saskya Vandoorne contributed reporting

Is this the end? What’s the outlook on the pandemic?


Vaccination rates are high in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean we can let up just yet.ByChia-Yi Hou | Apr. 8, 2021https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.450.0_en.html#goog_205855657700:00 of 01:06Volume 20% 

Story at a glance

  • Although cases may be decreasing around the country, coronavirus cases are still relatively high in some areas and are spiking in Michigan.
  • Issues like partial vaccination of a population could come into play.
  • Inequitable access to vaccines remains a concern, especially globally.

With many states in the U.S. relaxing restrictions and the weather turning warmer, it may seem like we are coming out of the pandemic. However, with cases recently spiking in Michigan and concerning cases and death rates elsewhere in the world such as Brazil, it’s a reminder that we are not yet out of the woods.

Last year, we looked at the different ways the pandemic could come to an end. Now with vaccines and variants on the scene, here’s a revisit to the topic and what we know now.

Partial vaccination

There could be issues getting the pandemic under control if we’re stuck at low levels of vaccination or partial vaccination. The way that immunity works at the population level means that, depending on the pathogen’s transmission rates, immunization at a low percentage of the total population would not be enough to prevent some transmission and cases to occur.

The ideal percentage vaccinated varies by disease, but for COVID-19 some experts estimate it to be at least 70 percent, although this may change as more data become available. If in the U.S. the vaccination rate slows down before we reach a high enough percentage, that could mean that we get small outbreaks and pockets of COVID cases around the country where the vaccination rates are lowest.

Our country is in a historic fight against the Coronavirus. Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.

Then there’s the issue of partial vaccination on the individual level. People who have gotten one dose are partially protected after a few weeks, but they may potentially interact with people who haven’t had any shots or also have had one shot. Vaccination does not totally prevent infection, as far as we know, and people who are vaccinated may be able to transmit the virus to others even if that has a very low probability of happening.

So with people around the country at varying stages of vaccination and immunity, that could lead to a patchwork of COVID cases that could allow the virus to remain in the population. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that even one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines provide a good amount of protection, but more data is needed to show this is happening on a national scale.

Once domestic travel picks up again, this complicates the situation further. Then a single location is no longer a simple population on its own. It has individuals entering and leaving the population. For example, this could mean that even if New York is doing well with vaccinating its population, unvaccinated people who are traveling to New York could continue to bring in the coronavirus and add to local outbreaks. The focus on each state’s progress would be less informative and the focus would need to be on national progress.






Recurring vaccination

Experts have not yet determined what a potential vaccination schedule might be for the coronavirus. Experts are also studying whether these existing vaccines protect against the coronavirus variants that have cropped up in the U.S. and around the world.

People who participated in the clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccines are receiving booster shots six months or more after their initial doses. An initial study from Pfizer and BioNTech suggests that its vaccine maintains 90 percent efficacy at the half year mark post second dose. If it turns out that the current vaccines are less effective at protecting against the coronavirus variants, the vaccine developers may need to produce adapted versions.

We are still learning about how long immunity lasts and how well the vaccines protect against the coronavirus variants. It may come to be that this time next year everyone will need a booster shot to maintain immunity against the virus. If, or when, that time comes, the urgency to get a booster shot may not be there for many people, and that could lead to varying levels of immunity within the population. That could leave many people with higher susceptibility to the coronavirus than others, which could boost infection rates and lead to more cases. This could mean that small outbreaks may move through and be sustained in the population if enough people are susceptible.

Inequitable access to vaccines

An issue that has become prominent around the world is inequitable access to vaccines, and one reason for that is intellectual property rights. The companies that developed the vaccines that are currently approved for emergency use are not willing to give up patent rights and share the methods for making their vaccines with other companies. This could slow down the long-term vaccination roll out for countries that were not able to secure doses before.

In addition, some wealthier countries prepaid for more than they needed because it wasn’t certain yet which vaccines would get emergency use approval. Other countries were lost in the free for all to buy up vaccines and are relying on a global effort called COVAX to get the shots. Many lower-income countries will be the last ones on the list to get vaccines, some not expecting any shipments until 2022 and some experts suggesting that many would not get any until 2024 if current behavior by high-income countries continues.

COVAX has purchased about 1 billion doses and could reserve 900 million more. It aims to immunize 20 percent of the people most vulnerable to the virus in low-income countries. But that falls short of getting most of the population in these countries vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus.

This presents a problem for all of us. While international travel is limited, as people start moving around more this increases the risk of arriving in a place where there are high numbers of cases or where many people are not yet vaccinated. Similar to the problem with people traveling domestically making it important to focus on national progress, this would make it important to focus on global vaccination progress.

Local outbreaks and epidemics

For all these reasons, it’s likely that there will continue to be local outbreaks and smaller epidemics around the country and in other parts of the world. The global pandemic may diminish to the point where it may not be a crisis any longer, but there could continue to be cases for a long time to come. We may stop calling it a pandemic at some point, but the novel coronavirus may still be around for a while after that.

Whether it is a pandemic or not depends on the global effects. On the other hand, COVID-19 could become endemic to humans, meaning that it will circulate in our populations indefinitely similarly to influenza. That does not mean that we will see death rates like we have in the past year. As we adapt to the coronavirus and it adapts to us, we could move towards a sort of equilibrium where the virus proliferates in our bodies but doesn’t kill us as easily.

These are all still unknowns at this point. As experts gather more data on how the vaccination roll outs have affected transmission of the virus and the number of cases, we’ll understand more about these dynamics.

For up-to-date information about COVID-19, check the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. For updated global case counts, check this page maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

You can follow Chia-Yi Hou on Twitter.







Infectious Disease Expert Explains Why Next COVID-19 Wave In U.S. Is Inevitable

04/06/2021 06:08 am ET Updated 7 hours ago


It’s likely too late to stop this upcoming surge, warned Michael Osterholm.


By Lee MoranContent loading…

Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm on Monday warned of the inevitability of another wave of coronavirus infections in the United States.

“While vaccination is important, it is obviously a critical part of our long-term game plan, we’re not going to have enough vaccine, at the way we’re going, into the arms of enough Americans over the course of the next six to 10 weeks, with this surge, that we’re going to stop it,” Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN’s Erin Burnett.

“It’s just simply not going to happen,” he added.

Osterholm noted that some states, even where vaccination uptake has been high, are now experiencing rising daily new infections.

As GOP-led states lift pandemic restrictions, new infections nationwide have plateaued at around 65,000. It’s a stubborn detail that has troubled public health experts.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and top medical adviser of President Joe Biden, cautioned last week that now is “just not the time to pull back and declare premature victory.”https://action.publicgood.com/embed.html?partner_id=buzzfeed-huffpost&utm_source=buzzfeed-huffpost&title=Infectious%20Disease%20Expert%20Explains%20Why%20Next%20COVID-19%20Wave%20In%20U.S.%20Is%20Inevitable&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffpost.com%2Fentry%2Fmichael-osterholm-inevitable-new-wave-coronavirus_n_606c1818c5b6c00165c52ac1&utm_content=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffpost.com%2Fentry%2Fmichael-osterholm-inevitable-new-wave-coronavirus_n_606c1818c5b6c00165c52ac1&widget_type=card&action=Default&is_flex=true&match_type=ml&campaign_id=ea0fef93-4deb-4581-9ad2-0fae5b670347&parent_org=buzzfeed&target_id=ea0fef93-4deb-4581-9ad2-0fae5b670347&content_id=15908882&cid_match_type=post-filter%20guid%20name%20match&tag=public%20health%20~%20pfizer%20ml%20match&is_filter=true&url_id=29244908&target_name=Explore%20Breakthroughs&is_sponsored=true&sponsor_name=Pfizer%20Inc.

Osterholm on Sunday warned the forthcoming wave will more likely affect children, due to the prevalence of the more contagious B.1.1.7. variant.

“Unlike the previous strains of the virus, we didn’t see children under eighth grade get infected often, or they were not frequently very ill,” Osterholm said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Kids are playing a huge role in the transmission of this,” he added on Fox News.

‘Nobody Is Safe Until Everyone Is Safe’: World Leaders Call For Global Pandemic Preparedness Treaty

Mar 30, 2021,05:55am EST|2,990 views

Robert HartForbes StaffBusinessI cover breaking news.


More than 20 world leaders came together Tuesday to call for a “new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response” that would help build the cooperation needed to manage inevitable future public health crises, though a number of crucial countries are absent from the list of signatories, including China which has come under global fire for its lack of cooperation throughout this pandemic and the SARS pandemic that preceded it.   

Men in special virus protective suits making research of coronavirus availability
World leaders called today for an international treaty on pandemic preparedness. GETTY


In a joint article published in newspapers around the world, the leaders including the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Korea’s Moon Jae-in said the Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge to world order since World War II. 

Twenty three countries backed the idea of the international treaty, as well as World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and European Council president Charles Michel. 


The group said future pandemics and health emergencies are inevitable and proposed a treaty to foster international cooperation akin to the global settlement that emerged from World War II.

The treaty would see international cooperation on data sharing, improved alert systems, and the research, development and distribution of vaccines, protective equipment and other essential medical supplies, as well as underscore the “One Health” approach to public health that recognizes the interconnected nature of human, animal and environmental health.  

The leaders, a number of whom are involved in public spats over vaccine supplies, also highlighted immunization as a “global public good” and underscored the need for equitable access, acknowledging that there “is more we can do to promote global access” than current efforts.  Top ArticlesHow To Replace The Battery InA Dell LaptopSKIP AD


Far more countries will need to come on board to make such a treaty effective at tackling future pandemics, especially given the potential for problematic diseases to emerge in just a single location and spread globally. History has shown time and again that poor surveillance and inadequate responses in one country imperils the entire world. Disease surveillance from the U.S., India and Russia would all be particularly important given their geographic and demographic size as well as political clout but outbreaks can emerge anywhere. Also conspicuously absent is China, which would be especially important in making an international framework work. China has come under fire for its early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially its lack of transparency regarding early cases of the disease and for obstructing investigations into the origins of the novel coronavirus. China’s apparent failure to learn from the earlier SARS pandemic, which shared many characteristics with Covid-19, including allegations of cover-ups, serves to underscore the need for international cooperation. 


Indonesia, one of the signatories, came under heavy fire in 2007 for refusing to share H5N1 bird flu samples with WHO researchers. The global community decried the move, which broke with decades of open sharing and could have severely hampered the ability of scientists to monitor the dangerous virus, which has pandemic potential should it spillover into humans. At the time, Indonesia said it would not share samples on the basis that they could be used to produce a vaccine that the country may not be able to afford..  


23 countries backed the proposal: Fiji, Portugal, Romania, Britain, Rwanda, Kenya, France, Germany, Greece, Korea, Chile, Costa Rica, Albania, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Senegal, Spain, Norway, Serbia, Indonesia, and Ukraine.


“No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone,” the leaders wrote, adding: “The question is not if, but when.”




No government can address the threat of pandemics alone – we must come together (Telegraph)

Exclusive: World leaders call for pandemic treaty (Telegraph)

China Silences Critics Over Deadly Virus Outbreak (NYT)




A controversial tweet revived the debate.Getty ImagesKATIE MACBRIDE3.24.2021 12:40 PM

ON TUESDAY, musician, author, and noted vegan, Moby, tweeted:


While it’s might be easy to dismiss his statement as a celebrity weighing in on a subject about which he has no expertise, it is reasonable to question how our relationship to animals might be contributing to pandemics. Our current pandemic, after all, is hypothesized to be the result of a virus that jumped from an animal species to humans — likely a bat.

It’s unquestionably true that our relationship to animals plays a big part in whether or not pandemics happen, Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, tells Inverse. But it’s not the physical consumption of the animal that’s usually the problem, Adalja says — it’s how we live and how the animal ends up on our plate.

Moby, veganism, tweet
Moby’s controversial tweet on Tuesday ignited a debate about veganism.Moby

“It’s not getting a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A that’s causing bird flu to be an issue,” Adalja says. “It’s the way we raise it.”

As humans, we’re animals on a planet with other animals — it’s inevitable that we’re going to interact with species other than our own. “You can get bitten by a raccoon and get rabies, not because you were going to eat it, but just because you happened to encounter it in the wild,” Adalja says.

In fact, there are a number of really damaging diseases that have nothing to do with eating animals, even though those diseases can be transferred through animal vectors. For example, malaria is transmitted by mosquitos and Lyme disease is transmitted from deers to humans by ticks. It’s the “no pandemics” element of Moby’s message that’s the most incorrect.


What matters more than eating animals is how we’re interacting with animals.

Although it’s true that most of the recent diseases found in humans in recent decades are pathogens that jumped from animals to humans, there’s actually a lot that needs to go right in order for an animal borne-pathogen to become a human pandemic.

There are a few hurdles any pathogen needs to be able to accomplish before it becomes a pandemic in humans, Adalja explains.

  • It needs to be able to jump from an animal to a human effectively
  • Once in the human, it needs to cause some kind of disease
  • That disease needs to be contagious (humans have to be able to pass it to each other effectively)

Throughout history, there have been sporadic outbreaks that “came and went on their own” after a pathogen jumps from animals to humans, Adalja explains.

The difference now, he says, is how we live. And that’s more complicated than just whether or not we consume animals or animal products.

“As humans, we evolved to be omnivores,” Adalja says. “10,000 years ago, there were no vegans. There were also no pandemics.”


Other than the fact that many humans still eat animals, everything else about how we live has changed since 10,000 years ago. We transitioned from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society. We started having more people living in one place and population density begins to increase.

Adalja says that humans also, “started going to the bathroom where they lived and domesticating animals.” But even then, we didn’t start seeing the really big pandemics until industrialization.


That doesn’t mean there were no plagues (the plague of Athens might have something to say). But even the Black Death in the mid-1300s was largely the result of population density, urbanization, and people interacting with each other more — not animal consumption.

Now, we’re more packed into spaces than we ever have been. And while our hygiene and understanding and treatment of diseases is infinitely better than it was in the 1300s, there’s one really big difference that adds to our pandemic risk: how small our world has become.

“An outbreak that happens on one side of the globe can get to the other side of the globe before you have even noticed it,” Adalja says. “And that’s what happened with Covid-19.”

Globalization, the rise of megacities, and increased population density have increased the rates and severity of pandemics more so than consuming animals and animal products, Adalja says.


In some ways, yes. Our consumption of animals isn’t entirely unrelated to some pandemics, and, when it is related, it’s important to understand how we can change our behavior to minimize risk as much as possible.

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist, responds to Moby.Angela Rasmussen

Some studies suggest we could further reduce our risk of some pandemics by changing the way we farm animals. This is especially true for influenza viruses stemming from birds. A 2008 study looking at biosecurity and farming explains, “The high throughput and confinement of highly concentrated animal populations increases the intensity of microbial exposures for farmers, their families, farmworkers, veterinarians, and others in contact with these operations.”

A different study from 2008 stresses the importance of biosafety measures and educating workers, especially poultry workers, about best practices. The study, published in Public Health Reports, concludes:

“Critical components of worker protection include educating employers and training poultry workers about occupational exposure to avian influenza viruses. Other recommendations for protecting poultry workers include the use of good hygiene and work practices, personal protective clothing and equipment, vaccination for seasonal influenza viruses, antiviral medication, and medical surveillance.”

Adalja agrees. “Most of the time, those transmission events can be minimized if you just actually practice biosafety,” he says. “That might mean if you’re butchering an animal, you’re washing your hands, or not doing it with open arms, or rubbing your eyes or doing whatever it might be.”

Global monitoring and transparency would also go a long way to preventing potential pandemics by stopping the disease locally before it has a chance to spread as much as Covid-19 did.

If you want to go vegan or have a primarily plant-based diet, there are plenty of environmental and health reasons to do so. Preventing pandemics isn’t really one of them.

Meanwhile, there’s always tofu.

Maine CDC reports 222 new cases of COVID-19 as 7-day average continues to rise



WMTWUpdated: 10:23 AM EDT Mar 20, 2021

coronaviruscoronavirus SOURCE: WMTW-TV


Sign up for daily emails with local updates and other important news.SUBMITPrivacy NoticeAUGUSTA, Maine —

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 222 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and no new deaths.

Maine’s seven-day average for new cases is now 206.6, up from 175.7 a week ago.https://41a124f1d8a9fc8c0e75bf3de20a6223.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlAdvertisement

The Maine CDC said 215,408 Mainers have received their final COVID-19 vaccine dose, which represents 16.02% of the population.


  • Deaths: 728
  • Total cases: 48,292
  • Confirmed cases: 37,310
  • Probable cases: 10,982
  • Cumulative positivity rate: 2.64%
  • 14-day positivity rate: 1.6%
  • Currently hospitalized: 80
  • Patients in intensive care: 20
  • Patients on ventilators: 10

Get more detailed COVID-19 data from the Maine CDC

Scientists say an apocalyptic bird flu could wipe out half of humanity

By Paula Froelich

Apocalyptic bird flu could wipe out half of humanity: scientists (nypost.com)

May 30, 2020 | 11:54am | UpdatedEnlarge Image

Chickens roost at a poultry farm in Taizhou, China.

Chickens roost at a poultry farm in Taizhou, China.Getty Images

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Russian farmworkers first humans to contract new form of bird flu

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China reports bird flu outbreak near epicenter of coronavirus

The coronavirus has killed over 365,000 people worldwide in just five months — but that’s nothing compared to what could be coming if humans don’t clean up their act when it comes to chickens.

In his new book, “How to Survive a Pandemic,” Dr. Michael Gregor, a scientist and physician who once testified for Oprah Winfrey in her “meat defamation” trial, warns that an apocalyptic virus emanating from overcrowded and unsanitary chicken farms has the potential to wipe out half of humanity.

Greger, a vegan, writes that “In the ‘hurricane scale’ of epidemics, COVID-19, with a death rate of around half of one percent, rates a measly Category Two, possibly a Three. … The Big One, the typhoon to end all typhoons, will be 100 times worse when it comes, a Category Five producing a fatality rate of one in two. … Civilization as we know it would cease.”

While environmentalists warned earlier this month that the world would face another stronger epidemic if we continue to have contact with wildlife, Gregor places the blame squarely on chickens.

“With pandemics explosively spreading a virus from human to human, it’s never a matter of if, but when,” Greger writes.

Citing the bird-based Spanish Flu outbreak of 1920, and the H5N1 outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997, Gregor writes, “the worry is that the virus never stands still but is always mutating. … This is the monster lurking in the undergrowth, the one that makes epidemiologists shudder.”


Scientists warn of deadlier future pandemics if we don’t stop this now

The Hong Kong outbreak, which originated in a bird market, “started with a three-year-old boy in Hong Kong, whose sore throat and tummy ache turned into a disease that curdled his blood and killed him within a week from acute respiratory and organ failure.” While only 18 people contracted that flu – a third of them died.

During that pandemic, the government killed 1.3 million chickens in an attempt to eliminate the virus – but there have since been two more outbreaks between 2003 and 2009 outside of China.

But with over 24 billion chickens on earth feeding the world, what can be done?

Gregor writes we have to change the entire system – away from large scale farms where chickens are fed antibiotics and are crammed together and pass diseases from one to another easily to smaller, free-range farms … and eventually not eating chickens or ducks at all.

“The pandemic cycle could theoretically be broken for good,” he writes. “Bird flu could be grounded.”

But until then, he warns, “as long as there is poultry, there will be pandemics. In the end, it may be us or them.”

Russia warns of human-to-human transmission of new bird flu mutation

Montana State News Bureau

By Yaron Steinbuch


March 12, 2021 | 12:25pm | UpdatedVideo Player is loading.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.447.1_en.html#goog_1774234252 




Russian farmworkers first humans to contract new form of bird flu

France to kill 600,000 poultry in effort to contain bird flu

Bird flu spreads to 10th Japanese prefecture

Scientists warn apocalyptic bird flu that makes coronavirus look like a sniffle

A mutating strain of bird flu that has emerged in Russia has “a fairly high degree of probability” of human-to-human transmission, the head of the country’s health watchdog warned in a report.

Anna Popova, who heads Rospotrebnadzor, made the worrying prediction almost a month after scientists detected the first case of H5N8 transmission to humans at a southern Russia poultry farm, the Moscow Times reported.

Humans can get infected with other bird and swine flu subtypes, but the H5N8 strain — which is lethal for birds — has never previously been reported to have spread among people.

“This is likely to happen. Colleagues say that the mutation is continuing very actively,” Popova said, adding that Rospotrebnadzor and the Siberia-based Vektor state research lab have time to develop a test kit and a vaccine, and then to “monitor the situation.”

“If we won’t need it, it’ll be a lucky break. But if necessary, we’ll be ready,” Russia’s chief sanitary doctor told Russian news agency TASS.

Russian Chief Sanitary Physician Anna Popova
Russian chief sanitary physician Anna Popova says a spread of the strain among humans is “likely to happen.”

“In other words, we’ll be able to warn the entire world community of the threat.”

Last month, Popova reported the first case of the H5N8 strain passing to humans from birds to the World Health Organization, according to Reuters.

bird flu Russia
The H5N8 strain, which is lethal for birds, has never previously been reported to have spread among people.

In addition to Russia and Europe, outbreaks of H5N8 have been reported in recent months in China, the Middle East and North Africa — but so far only in poultry.

Other strains of avian flu, such as H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2, have been known to spread to humans.

bird Russia
Outbreaks of H5N8 have been reported in recent months in China, the Middle East and North Africa.

Seven workers at a Russian poultry plant had been infected with the H5N8 mutation in an outbreak at the plant in December, Popova said, adding that everyone quickly recovered.

“This situation did not develop further,” she said in late February.