Viral Origins: Past and Present Part 1

This is the first of 2 posts on the origin of SARS-CoV-2, and why we should all not simply regard it as a deeply traumatic, but once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Political Posturing:

President Donald Trump has made a number of references in the past, and made a few more in his recent 4th July Address to the Nation, to the fact that SARS-CoV-2 originated in China. He always makes these remarks in a way that suggests (a) that China deliberately, or by negligence inflicted the virus on the World; and (b) that such a thing would never happen in the United States of America. I always feel that every time he makes these statements someone should remind him that so-called Spanish Flu, the pandemic in 1918 that infected 500 million people, and killed somewhere between 17 and 50 million of them, may well have originated in the USA. The disease was certainly first detected in America, France, Germany and the UK, but to maintain morale news of the pandemic was suppressed by World War I censors in these countries. Newspapers were, however, allowed to report on the effects of the illness in neutral Spain, giving the impression that it was particularly severe there. The term “Spanish Flu” was born, and the pandemic has been stuck with the name ever since. There is even better evidence that the last Influenza Pandemic in 2009 arose in the USA. Even the CDC website confirms this. Maybe they should have called it “American Flu” instead of Swine Flu?

The latter suggestion would not be endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). They produced a report in 2015 on how diseases should be named which stipulated that names should not single out particular human populations, places, animals or food. Names like this often turn out to be wrong (see above), and can result in stigmatisation of communities or nationalities. For example, the first name given to AIDS was Gay-related Immune Deficiency (Grid): this terminology stigmatised the gay community, and ignored the fact that many heterosexuals were also infected by the HIV virus.

We are all to blame for COVID:

The majority of the evidence suggests that one of the Chinese “wet markets” (places selling live and dead animals for human consumption) provided the opportunity for SARS-CoV-2 to jump easily from animals to humans. There was already a precedent for this with SARS. However, the reasons why zoonoses (human infections of animal origin) have increased so much in recent decades have to do with policies that involve all of us, not just the Chinese. For an explanation of this, please see “Viral Origins: Past and Present Part 2.”

Medicine Politics

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