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  • Ricksel Penullar

How It All Started, Part 1

It was New Years, 2019 when health officials in China admitted they had a problem, A New type of virus emerged from Central China. A rapidly increasing number of people were developing symptoms of a dry cough and fever before getting pneumonia, and for some people, it turned fatal. Doctors have named the disease COVID-19 or "Coronavirus disease, 2019" it indicated that a type of virus is causing the illness. Upon tracing the origin of the virus, they found the likely source. It is located in Huanan Market Wuhan, China. Out of the 41 patients, 27 of those patients had been there. It wasn't conclusive evidence, but Chinese officials quickly shut down the market. They had seen something like these before with the SARS outbreak that happened in 2003. It originated in mainland China that spread across the country; The Disease had been festering for months in Southern China until an outbreak occurred. In 2002, a coronavirus had emerged at a very similar market in Southern China. It eventually reached 29 countries and killed nearly 800 people. Eighteen years later, this new coronavirus in at least 71 countries has already killed over 3100 people. So, what do these markets have to do with the coronavirus outbreak? Furthermore, why is it happening in China?

A lot of the virus that makes us sick originated in animals. Some of the viruses that cause the flu came from birds and pigs, and that caused influenza. HIV/Aids comes from Chimpanzees; The deadly ebola virus likely originated in bats. In the case of COVID-19, there is some evidence it went from a bat to a pangolin before infecting a human. While viruses are very good at jumping between species, it is rare for a deadly one to make this journey to humans. That is because it would need all these hosts to encounter each other at some point. That is where the Wuhan market takes place, It is a wet market that sells fresh meat, fish, produce, and other perishable goods. These wet markets are a kind of place where animals are slaughtered and sold for consumption. Peter Li, a professor, and expert on China's animal trade, says, "It's not a surprise for many scientists, the cages are stacked one over another...Animals at the bottom are often soaked with all kinds of liquid. Animal excrement, pus and blood. Whatever the liquid they are receiving from the animals above." By Peter Li's statement, that is precisely how a virus can jump from one animal to another. If that animal comes in contact with or is consumed by a human, the virus could potentially infect them. Furthermore, if the virus then spreads to other humans, it causes an outbreak. Wet Markets are scattered all over the world, but the ones in china are mainly well known because they offer a wide variety of animals, including wildlife.

Most animals in china are from all over the world, and each one has the potential to carry its viruses into the market. The reason all these animals are in the same market is because of a decision in China's government made decades ago. In the 1970s China was falling apart. Famine had killed more than 36 million people and the communist regime, which controlled all food production, was failing to feed its more than 900 million people. In 1978, on the verge of collapse, the regime gave up its control and allowed private farming. While large companies increasingly dominated the production of popular foods like pork and poultry, some smaller farmers turned to catching and raising wild animals as a way to sustain themselves. Peter Li says, "At the very beginning, it was mostly a peasant household. Backyard operations of turtles, for example, that is how wildlife farming started to get off the ground." Since it started to feed and sustain people, the Chinese government did not see the issue so they backed it up. It was imperative for the government to encourage people to make a living through whatever productivities they can find themselves in. "If you can lift yourself out of poverty no matter what you are doing, that is ok" is basically the government's response to this. However in 1988, the government made a decision that changed the shape of wildlife trade in china. They enacted the wildlife protection law, which designated the animals as "resources owned by the state" and protected people engaged in the "utilization of wildlife resources." It was one of the most devastating problems of the law because if you designate the wildlife as "natural resources," then that could mean it is something you can use for human benefit. The law also encouraged the domestication and breeding of wildlife. With these underlying factors, a new industry is born. In my opinion, but we see a pattern here, we need to stop the consumption of exotic animals, and wet markets should be shut down permanently to avoid health risks.

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