The Origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus

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China reports its first human death from rare Monkey B virus
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Rebecca Tan
Publishing date:Jul 19, 2021 • 7 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Two macaque monkeys in the middle of a green forest.
Two macaque monkeys in the middle of a green forest. PHOTO BY STOCK ART /Getty Images
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A man in China has died after contracting a rare infectious disease from primates, known as the Monkey B virus, Chinese health officials have revealed.

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The victim, a 53-year-old veterinarian based in Beijing, was the first documented human case of the virus in China.


According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the man worked in a research institute that specialized in nonhuman primate breeding and dissected two dead monkeys in March. He experienced nausea, vomiting and fever a month later, and died May 27. His blood and saliva samples were sent to the center in April, where researchers found evidence of the Monkey B virus. Two of his close contacts, a male doctor and a female nurse, tested negative for the virus, officials said.

The Monkey B virus, or herpes B virus, is prevalent among macaque monkeys, but extremely rare – and often deadly – when it spreads to humans. In humans, it tends to attack the central nervous system and cause inflammation to the brain, leading to a loss of consciousness, said Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease expert at Kobe University in Tokyo. If untreated, there’s about an 80 percent fatality rate.

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There have been fewer than a hundred reported human infections of herpes B since the first case of primate-to-human transmission in 1932, many of them in North America, where scientists tend to be more aware of the disease, Iwata said. There are likely to be cases of the virus that have gone undetected, but experts still widely believe that it is an extremely rare condition among humans.

Victims have tended to be veterinarians, scientists or researchers who work directly with primates and could be exposed to their bodily fluids through scratches, bites or dissections. In 1997, a primate researcher in New York died six weeks after a caged monkey flung a drop of liquid at her face, hitting her eye. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has only been one documented case of an infected human spreading the virus to another person.

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Both herpes B and the novel coronavirus are “the consequence of species jumps,” said Nikolaus Osterrieder, dean of the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences in Hong Kong. “But the important difference is that in the case from herpes B, it’s a dead end. It’s not jumping from one human to another human,” he added. “SARS-CoV-2, on the other hand, acquired the ability to spread to a new host.”

Osterrieder said herpes B is very well-adapted to macaque monkeys and unlikely to mutate in a way that it will start to spread rapidly among humans. Nonetheless, both he and Iwata emphasized that they hope more people learn about the disease and take the right safety precautions, especially when interacting with monkeys in non-research settings, such as at a zoo or in nature. Officials in Florida debated last year what to do over a rapidly multiplying population of rhesus monkeys – an emerging tourist attraction – many of which carried the herpes B virus.

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Chinese health authorities said discovery of the Monkey B virus in a human suggests that it might “pose a potential zoonotic threat to occupational workers,” adding that it’s necessary “to strengthen surveillance in laboratory macaques and occupational workers.” By Monday, news of the veterinarian’s death had been viewed more than 110 million times on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.

“Apart from researchers, most people should stay away from wild animals,” said one post with several thousand likes. “You may want to be close to nature, but nature doesn’t want to be close to you.”

Last week, Dallas County health officials in Texas reported the case of a man with a rare case of monkeypox, which can also be transmitted when people are bitten or scratched by an animal.
 
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China rejects WHO plan for study of COVID-19 origin
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Gabriel Crossley
Publishing date:Jul 22, 2021 • 16 hours ago • 2 minute read • 7 Comments
People wearing face masks walk on a street market, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 8, 2021.
People wearing face masks walk on a street market, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 8, 2021. PHOTO BY ALY SONG /REUTERS
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BEIJING — China rejected on Thursday a World Health Organization (WHO) plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, which includes the hypothesis it could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory, a top health official said.

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The WHO this month proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities.


“We will not accept such an origins-tracing plan as it, in some aspects, disregards common sense and defies science,” Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), told reporters.

Zeng said he was taken aback when he first read the WHO plan because it lists the hypothesis that a Chinese violation of laboratory protocols had caused the virus to leak during research.

The head of the WHO said earlier in July that investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there.

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Zeng reiterated China’s position that some data could not be completely shared due to privacy concerns.


“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Zeng said.

China opposed politicizing the study, he said.

The origin of the virus remains contested among experts.

The first known cases emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The virus was believed to have jumped to humans from animals being sold for food at a city market.

In May, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered aides to find answers to questions over the origin saying that U.S. intelligence agencies were pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.

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Zeng, along with other officials and Chinese experts at the news conference, urged the WHO to expand origin-tracing efforts beyond China to other countries.

“We believe a lab leak is extremely unlikely and it is not necessary to invest more energy and efforts in this regard,” said Liang Wannian, the Chinese team leader on the WHO joint expert team. More animal studies should be conducted, in particular in countries with bat populations, he said.

However, Liang said the lab leak hypothesis could not be entirely discounted but suggested that if evidence warranted, other countries could look into the possibility it leaked from their labs.

One key part of the lab leak theory has centered on the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) decision to take offline its gene sequence and sample databases in 2019.

When asked about this decision, Yuan Zhiming, professor at WIV and the director of its National Biosafety Laboratory, told reporters that at present the databases were only shared internally due to cyber attack concerns. (Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Stella Qiu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Robert Birsel and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)