Dr. Peter Daszak, disease ecologist and the president of EcoHealth Alliance, explained to Democracy Now how the conspiracy theory pushed by Fox News and President Donald Trump that the coronavirus was created in a lab in Wuhan, China “is just pure baloney”:
Look, first, the idea that this virus escaped from a lab is just pure baloney. It’s simply not true. I’ve been working with that lab for 15 years. And the samples collected were collected by me and others in collaboration with our Chinese colleagues.
They’re some of the best scientists in the world. There was no viral isolate in the lab. There was no cultured virus that’s anything related to SARS coronavirus 2. So it’s just not possible.
And like you say, it’s really a politicization of the origins of a pandemic, and it’s really unfortunate. The stories, as President Trump said he’s been hearing, have been around since day one of the outbreak, and they’re around in every outbreak.
Daszak said 75% of new diseases such as Ebola, H1N1 flu and H5N1 flu begin in wildlife, including the coronavirus which is likely from bats:
So we sequence out the gene from the virus, the genome, and then we compare it to others. And when we do that, we see that the viruses in people, the closest relative of those are from bats. This is not unusual. Bats happen to carry a lot of different viral species.
There are many different bats around the world that carry their own viruses. We make contact with them. Often we don’t see them. They fly at night, for instance. And we pick up their viruses. SARS coronavirus, the original virus, emerged from bats. Ebola virus is a bat-origin virus. Rabies and many others.
How did a virus like this get from a bat to a human? It is a very strange thing when we try and think about it. But first of all, in Southeast Asia, there is a huge diversity of bats. People live out in rural areas close to bat caves. They’re exposed every night when bats fly over them, urinate, defecate, maybe onto their food or into their drink. People go into bat caves. People go in for various reasons.
They go in to dig out the bat guano, the feces, and they use it as a fertilizer, just like we used to do many years ago with bird feces. They go into caves to shelter from the rain. They’re farmers. They’re subsistence farmers hunting and eating wildlife, so they get exposed that way. People do eat bats.
It’s true. And they eat bats all around the world. It’s a free source of protein. If you’re out there in a bat cave, they’re pretty easy to catch. And these are the ways people get exposed.
Now, how did it get into the market? We know for sure that the Wuhan market was part of this outbreak, but we think that the first few cases weren’t in the market. And this is not uncommon. We’ve seen this with many, many other disease outbreaks, new viruses that emerge.
They trickle out from rural areas through a person getting infected maybe in Hunan province and then moving into Wuhan, that maybe they’re part of the wildlife trade. Maybe a farmer got infected, or a farmer’s animals, and they were shipped into the markets.
These wet markets aren’t just places to sell wildlife; they’re places where people congregate. They come in in droves. They circulate around. They’re really good places for a virus to spread. And if a person brings it in, or an animal, that virus will spread. And it looks like that’s what’s happened here.
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