Is A New Pandemic Unfolding In China?

A new viral pandemic is unfolding in a way that is eerily similar the SARS pandemic in 2002-2003.

Like the SARS virus — this viral pandemic is due to a coronavirus.  Coronaviruses first discovered in the 1960s are believed to be one of the primary sources of the common cold (rhinoviruses are another).  The virus not only attacks the upper respiratory system (sinuses and throat) it also attacks the lower respiratory system (lungs) causing pneumonia.

Where Did This Virus Come From?

The new strain of coronavirus has officially been dubbed as “2019 Novel Coronavirus” or  2019 nCoV for short.  However the media and general public is also calling it the “Wuhan Coronavirus” because the virus seems to have originated in the city of Wuhan which is a major transportation hub in central China.

Since its discovery in late December 2019, the virus has already spread to Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, and the United States.

While Chinese authorities are still trying to determine the exact source of this new virus — like the SARS pandemic — the first case of Wuhan coronavirus seems to also have originated in a market where live animals are sold and slaughtered for food.

A typical Chinese food market. No refrigeration and non-existent sanitation are the norm. Note the frogs waiting to be cut up by the man — and the live chicken roosting over vegetables,

Unlike western markets, food markets in Asia typically sell live animals because of the lack of infrastructure and refrigeration.  Animals are kept “on the hoof” until purchase — and then slaughtered.  And the animals you find sold as food, would turn the stomachs of most Westerners…

A price list circulating on China’s internet for a business at the Wuhan market lists a menagerie of animals or animal-based products including live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, camel meat and other game — 112 items in all.

“Freshly slaughtered, frozen and delivered to your door,” said the price list for the vendor, “Wild Game Animal Husbandry for the Masses”.

A common “delicacy” you will find in most markets are bats –which are the natural source of most coronaviruses including the SARS virus. Medical professionals in China have already sequenced the genes of the new Wuhan coronavirus and found that it also originated in bats.

In the case of the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic it is believed by many scientists that a civet (a cat like creature, that are also sold as food in Asian markets) was infected by a bat — and then eaten by a human.  However it is far more likely that coronaviruses are moving directly from bat to human due to human consumption of bats.

A disgusting dish… bat soup.

What is The Mortality Rate?

It is still too early to determine the exact mortality rate.  Especially given China’s lack of transparency regarding the number of cases and number of deaths.

As of 22 January 2020…

Chinese authorities and state media say close to 500 people have fallen ill and 17 people have died from the disease..

Using those numbers that means Wuhan coronavirus has a mortality rate of 3.4% although that is likely to be a low estimate.

The SARS pandemic in 2002-2003 killed about 9.6% of the people infected.

Compare that with H1N1 influenza (swine flu) pandemic which had high morbidity (meaning a lot of people contracted the flu) but the mortality rate (the number of people killed) was only about 0.2%.  However it killed between 151,700 and 575,400 people globally.

The World Health Organization Has Been Slow To Act

This new virus is a severe threat and the World Health Organization has been slow to act.  Its first meeting was scheduled for Wednesday 22 January 2019 — three weeks after the first case.  There is nothing on their website talking about the emerging threat other than this generic video on coronaviruses.

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