What is the correct terminology to use?
- The term coronavirus actually refers to a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans
- COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus
- Experts refer to this coronavirus as the novel coronavirus, meaning it’s a new type of coronavirus that was not previously known or understood
- Examples of previous coronaviruses include SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and (MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
Did the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 really come from wild animals?
We have every reason to believe so, yes. Scientists believe this new form of coronavirus originated from a seafood market in Wuhan where various species of wild animals were sold and butchered illegally. Experts from China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) successfully isolated the virus from samples taken from the market.
Live animal markets where a broad variety of domestic and wildlife species are sold for consumption are perfect breeding grounds for diseases. Animals sold at these markets are often kept in small cages stacked on top of each other – the stress of captivity weakens their immune systems making it easier for viruses to spread from species to species. With the SARS epidemic in 2003, the virus jumped from bats to civet cats as an intermediary host, before being transmitted to humans. Scientists in China have deduced that this new type of coronavirus ‘jumped’ from bats to another intermediary species and ultimately to humans as well.
Diseases that are animal-borne are ‘zoonotic diseases’. There are many examples of modern zoonotic diseases that spread from wild animals to humans. HIV/AIDS is thought to have originated in chimpanzees in West-Africa, hunted and butchered for human consumption. The reservoir for Ebola is within African bats, considered a delicacy in parts of Africa. Hence, the spread of zoonotic pathogens is a worldwide problem. New diseases coming from wild animals can erupt in all parts of the world as long as humans keep hunting, trading and butchering animals.
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