Reopening Across China: ‘Wet Markets’ — Known Springboards for the Group of Viruses Known as Coronaviruses

The origin of the coronavirus pandemic remains uncertain, but a top candidate is Wuhan’s wet market, where consumers could buy the meat of wild animals.

Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in birds and mammals, including humans. Bats are mammals, but they can host several different types of viruses without showing any illness, except rabies which does sicken bats (not caused by Coronavirus, but rather Lyssavirus).

Coronavirus infections in humans can cause mild respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold, which is also caused by rhinoviruses; but there are fatal Coronavirus infections, such as MERS, SARS, and SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

You can see for yourself by searching “eating bat soup China” or “eating bats China” on YouTube and finding videos that show people eating bats or playing with bats while they eat them. Some people accused these specific people of causing the zoonotic transmission that caused the Coronavirus COVID-19, but the original videos (one from Chinese social influencer Weng Mengyun, according to THE OBSERVERS FRANCE24) were possibly produced outside China in Palau, and long before the outbreak from Wuhan, where many suspect the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic started at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. According to a publication in The Lancet on February 15, 2020 “Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China”, among 41 of the initial cases of admitted hospital patients in Wuhan, 27 (66%) of the patients had been exposed to the conditions at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.

Wet markets in China are notorious for including wild animals and wildlife products, including bats. These markets are called a wet market because the floor is constantly washed after animals are slaughtered in the open market. A variety of sources have speculated that there was a jump of the virus from a bat that was slaughtered at the market to a human — a zoonotic transmission. According to the CDC, Zoonotic diseases are caused by germs spread between animals and people. Articles that describe or emphasize the revulsion toward Chinese practices at wet markets have been countered by articles that report the anti-wet market message “fuels Sinophobia,” and explains the poor state of farmers that switched from farming pork and poultry via contract with an industrial food conglomerate, to the more profitable farming of local breeds and wild animals at a higher margin. An article by Beth Daley of the The Conversation claims that closing wet markets would drive trading underground and reduce crucial ‘early warning’ sites for viral surveillance that can exist via regulated markets.

See also …

THE OBSERVERS FRANCE24 | Is bat soup a delicacy in China? We debunk a rumour on the origin of the coronavirus

Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China [published correction appears in Lancet. 2020 Jan 30;:]. Lancet. 2020;395(10223):497–506. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30183-5
Direct Link to The Lancet article [PDF]

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