Where did the Corona virus start?
We know that it started in China, in the city called Wuhan.
But where exactly in Wuhan did it start?
It started at a wet market called Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan.
What is a wet market?
A wet market is a market selling live meat, fish, fruits and veg and other perishable goods.
Why is it called a wet market?
Live fish in open tubs splash water all over the floor.
The countertops of the stalls are red with blood as fish are gutted and filleted right in front of the customers’ eyes.
Live turtles and crustaceans climb over each other in boxes.
Melting ice adds to the slush on the floor.
There is lots of water, blood, fish scales and chicken guts.
Things are wet, hence wet market.
The opposite of a wet market is a “dry markets” which sell durable goods such as fabric and electronics.
The Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan is thought to be the starting point for the virus outbreak. It was closed down on January 1, 2020.
At this market, meat is sold alongside live animals like dogs, hares and civets.
The Coronavirus and the SARS outbreak of 2003 have two things in common: Both are from the coronavirus family, and both started in wet markets.
Wuhan authorities have since banned the trade of live animals at wet markets to lower the risk of a disease outbreak.
At such markets, outdoor stalls are squeezed together to form narrow lanes, where locals and visitors buy cuts of meat and ripe produce.
A stall selling hundreds of caged chickens may be squeezed next to butcher counter, where uncooked meat is chopped as nearby dogs watch hungrily.
Vendors hock skinned hares, while seafood stalls display glistening fish and shrimp.
Wet markets like Huanan are common around China.
Here is what Huanan Seafoon Market looked like before being closed:
Picture 1: The close proximity of shoppers to stall vendors and live and dead animals in wet markets make them prime breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases.
Picture 2: A man is slaughtering a frog, in the same basket there is fish and frog remain, on the left basket is live frogs
Picture 3: Carcass of meat on the table, dogs in cages next to it
Picture 4: Two workers were pictured skinning rodents at the now closed wet market.
Picture 5: A vendor sells bats at a market in Sulawesi, Indonesia [There is a belief that the corona virus might be from bats]
Picture 6: snakes sold at the market. [Scientists believe that the corona virus might be snakes]
Picture 7: Fish off pealed on the floor in full view of customers
A 61-year-old man was the first person to die from the virus. According to Bloomberg, he was a regular shopper at the Huanan wet market.
The World Health Organisation reported that the Chinese authorities have closed The Huanan Seafood Market on 1 January 2020 for environmental sanitation and disinfection.
“When you bring animals together in these unnatural situations, you have the risk of human diseases emerging,” Kevin Olival, a disease ecologist and conservationist at the EcoHealth Alliance, told National Geographic.
“If the animals are housed in bad conditions under a lot of stress, it might create a better opportunity for them to shed virus and to be sick.”
Coronaviruses are zoonotic diseases, meaning they first spread to people from animals.
In the case of SARS, and likely this Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, bats were the original hosts. The bats then infected other animals, which transmitted the virus to humans.
Bats can pass along viruses in their poop: If they drop feces onto a piece of fruit that a civet then eats, the civet can become a disease carrier.
Experts have not yet identified the animal species that enabled the Wuhan coronavirus to spread to people.
“There’s an indication that it’s a bat virus, spread in association with wet markets,” Munster said. “But we don’t know which animal species is the amplifier, or intermediate host.”
Scientists in China have figured out the genetic code of the Wuhan coronavirus.
When researchers compared it with other coronaviruses, they found it to be most similar to two bat coronavirus samples from China.
But further analysis showed that the genetic building blocks of the Wuhan coronavirus more closely resembled that of snakes.
According to the researchers, the only way to be sure of where the virus came from is to take DNA samples from animals sold at the Huanan market and from wild snakes and bats in the area.
It is important to understand and see the source that gives rise to the virus, so that we better be able to prevent it in the future.
This pandemic is another remind about the importance of hygiene and what we consume.
For now, what is urgent is to stop the spread of the virus, find a vaccine and treat those who are infected.
While we are on the source of viruses, let us take a look at what caused other well-known pandemics in history:
Ebola virus – was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, the virus has been infecting people from time to time, leading to outbreaks in several African countries.
What caused it?
Ebola virus persists in nonhuman animal reservoirs in the wilds of Africa and likely elsewhere, and that inadvertent human contact with these reservoir species can facilitate zoonosis, which is the transmission of an infectious agent, in this case Ebola virus, from nonhuman animals to humans.
Influenza [Commonly known as Flu] – There are several types of influenza, H1N1, H3N2 etc. H1N1 is also commonly known as swine flu.
This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that its gene segments were similar to influenza viruses that were most recently identified in and known to circulate among pigs.
Cholera – is an acute infectious disease caused by a bacteria, usually found in water, which usually results in a painless, watery diarrhea in humans.
The Black Death – Thought to have originated in Asia, the Plague most likely jumped continents via the fleas living on the rats that so frequently lived aboard merchant ships.
There are more different types of diseases, but what is common from these and other is:
- The disease usually resides in animals
- Get transmitted to humans through some form of contact, for instance consumption
- The disease then spreads from one person to another.
PS: I’m not an medical practitioner nor an expert in epidemics or pandemics, I just wrote what I read extensively from different sources and also following pronouncements from experts in these areas.