August 8, 2022

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Two years into the epidemic and this is still an unsolved mystery

Two years into the epidemic and this is still an unsolved mystery

On January 1, 2020, as the world celebrated the start of the New Year, authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan closed the Huanan Fish Market. Few people understood what was in danger, and tried to take action.

The first suspicions about “new infectious pneumonia” were raised after 27 people fell ill after being in this market in December 2019. Lab tests indicated a completely new coronavirus as the name SARS-CoV-2, later known as covid-19.

There was no point in closing the market. Three weeks later, the virus had spread to three countries, but in Europe it was still out of reach.

A mysterious lung virus is spreading in China

NTB first reported a “mysterious type of pneumonia” in Wuhan on January 9, 2020. TV 2 first reported the virus in an SMS on Nyhetskanalen on January 17, 2020. Then the message was:

“A mysterious lung virus is spreading in China. Two have died and dozens have been infected. (…) Wuhan is believed to be the epicenter of the eruption. At least 41 people have been diagnosed with pneumonia caused by the new virus. The virus has also been detected in Japan and Thailand, And the two injured were both to Wuhan »

In the days that followed, there were more and more reports of illness, fear, and measures.

change the world

On January 22, the World Health Organization sat in a crisis meeting and thought about whether or not to declare it an international crisis. Two days later, the first known cases appeared in Europe – and two years later, the virus killed 5.2 million people.

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Almost everyone has changed his life. Vaccines, drugs and experience have lowered the virus’ death rate, but the virus is mutating and changing faster than before.

There is still a lot we don’t know.

The biggest questions are: How did the virus originate? And how can we prevent a new and possibly more dangerous virus from spreading again?

bat theory vs lab theory

Most researchers believe that the theory that the virus originally came from bats, which were transmitted directly or through another animal to humans, has been bolstered.

A researcher takes samples from the mouth of a bat in Cambodia on August 30 this year. Photo: CINDY LIU

But there are also those who believe that it is more likely that the virus came from a laboratory, and that it was either intentionally or accidentally leaked.

Evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey, of the University of Utah, believes both explanatory models are reliable, but believes that several facts support the bat theory.

He recently published a research article providing a timeline linking the first case to the Huanan Fish Market in Wuhan.

The lab leak theory is almost certainly a distraction that takes focus away from what actually happened, he says AP News Agency.

Live near the lab

Others are not convinced.

In the late summer, an investigative team formed by US President Joe Biden published a report showing that one in four US intelligence agencies believed that the lab leak theory was the most credible.

It is alleged that the first to discover Covid-19 was an accountant with no connection to the Huanan market. He lived near the Wuhan Institute of Virology and developed symptoms on December 8, 2019

A photo from February 2017 shows researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan at work.  Here they did a lot of research on SARS and other coronaviruses, and here they were able to connect the SARS virus to bats.  Photo: AP

A photo from February 2017 shows researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan at work. Here they did a lot of research on SARS and other coronaviruses, and here they were able to connect the SARS virus to bats. Photo: AP

Those who support laboratory theory can also be divided into groups.

Most believe that staff at the laboratory in Wuhan may have been infected while working on viral samples from animals due to poor safety procedures. But there are also those who believe that the virus was created in a laboratory with the intention of using it as a biological weapon.

US intelligence denied that this was something they believed the Chinese intended to do.

Perhaps the raccoon dog was an intermediate host

Worobey believes that the only thing that can prove with one hundred percent certainty that the virus came from an animal, is to get an animal from the Huanan market to find the same original coronavirus there, but that is not possible. All animals were killed from the market.

He noted that the coronavirus most similar to covid-19 was found in bats in Laos, and that raccoon dogs were likely the intermediate host that infected humans. Raccoon dogs are sold directly in the Huanan market, and they can be easily infected with all kinds of coronavirus.

Worubi also believes that the man who developed symptoms on December 8 may have already had a tooth infection, and that he did not contract coronavirus until December 16. He claims to have identified an earlier case: a seller at Huanan Market who developed symptoms on December 11.

political tension

The search for answers has created a sharp mood between the United States and China, and it is feared that the mistrust between the two countries will lead to a lack of knowledge of how the pandemic began.

It is important to have knowledge to be able to prevent new dangerous viruses that are transmitted from animals to humans. Several animals are also infected with Covid-19, and some question whether the omicron variant has also occurred in an animal. The variant has many mutations.

Worldwide, mutations can occur in many animals. Even if we can control infection between humans, infections can still be transmitted between animals, virologist David O’Connor tells PT.

This is how they work to predict future epidemics