Health officials in China are scrambling trying to contain this new coronavirus that has reportedly just been identified in the United States, Washington State to be more specific. This disease is easily spread and is similar to the Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). China was also ground zero for SARS. It infected nearly 8,000 individuals killing just under 800 during the 2002-2003 outbreak of the virus.
All this should not be news to an informed individual. However, you should not be surprised this outbreak, SARS, and many other come from China and other Asian countries. Local meat markets in these locations make it ground zero for the next virus. I am surprised it did not happen sooner. The question was never if it would happen again, but rather when it would happen again.
Even with outstanding food, sterilization, and contamination practices, some viruses are just going to mutate and spread. It will always happen and there is nothing anyone or any country can do about that. Unfortunately, when it comes to diseases humans are reactive not proactive in this because frankly there is not another choice. Medical facilities have to wait for the disease or virus to be formed before you can even begin to think of a cure or immunity to that specific strand. It can take anywhere from 3-15 years to come up with a vaccine for a new virus or disease.
China has local food/meat markets that are all spread across the country in cities such as their capital, Hong Kong. In these markets there are all kinds of different animals: chickens, pigs, ducks, pigeons, sheep, goat, bats and more. These animals will be stacked on top of each other in cages. They will be killed with the same tools as the last animal with no form of cleaning and highly susceptible to cross contamination.
Why This Should be a Problem?
This is a problem because it makes it to where these animals are closely packed together and creating a breeding ground for viruses. For example, let us say animal A (bat) has a virus and animal B (sheep) has one of the estimated 1.5 million unknown viruses in the world. These two animals cannot directly impact each other. However, if they both come into contact with animal C (pig) then the two viruses can meet into the body and mutate to form a stronger virus. The virus could be more deadly in animal A and more contagious in animal B. However, when combined into our Animal C. The mutation takes on the morality rate and contamination rate of the other two. Making this virus more deadly than the other two previous viruses.
When animal C is finally butchered. The meat will be contaminated and if not properly cooked could infect the person eating it. Now if the market is not practicing good sterilization habits, which most are not. Then the table, the knife, the butcher, and essentially the entire area can be contaminated. Which then spreads to other individuals.
It is No Big Deal Though Right? It’s in China.
WRONG! SARS started in China and within a couple weeks it was in different areas of the world. Same with this new virus that is spreading. Especially with places such as Hong Kong that are tourist attractions, any virus can be spread across the world in a matter of days. For instance if a subject travels to Hong Kong and wants to try the local meat market to really get the experience of the culture they could hypothetically get infected with this virus. They go back to their hotel or wherever they are staying. The next day they wake up feeling ill. They are coughing or even throwing up depending on the virus.
They cough in the hallways, the touch the buttons on the elevator, and they could potentially throw up in their room. This infects let us say 9 different people in the hotel that were on their floor, walked those halls, and also rode in that elevator. Those nine people are from different countries such as United States, Japan, Germany, etc. They board their planes to travel back home.
Once again they start coughing on their flight. They touch their seat and their arm rest on the seats. Soon that plane becomes contaminated and get spread to a couple of the other passengers and continues to spread and spread. So while it may very well be on the other side of the world. This outbreak and future outbreaks could be spread in a matter of days, not weeks. So it most definitely is a big deal. Coronaviruses can infect pigs, cattle, domestic and wild birds, rodents, and cats, along with dogs. With loose regulations on food and work place hygiene these countries are breeding ground for the next pandemic that the world will face. If it is not already here it is merely just a question of when, not if it will arrive.