Week of 27th January 2020
Updated: 30th Jan 2020 - additional external opinions
Facemasks are sold out in Wuhan, Hong Kong and Toronto's supermarket. Even out in Zurich, they are flying off the shelves of pharmacies. The 2019-nCoV is deadly and the scariest part is that it is unknown.
While it seems 2019-nCoV is less deadly than SARS which killed just under 800 people globally, mostly in China and in Hong Kong, we should take a look at how the world really is dealing with such zoonotic diseases without making it political.
The Spanish Flu lasted from spring of 1918 to summer of 1919, killing between 20 million to 50 million people. Between 1919 and 2019, we have seen many more episodes of deadly flu outbreaks. Unless we are more aware of our relationship with wild life and animals, there will be more frequent occurrences of similar episodes.
For a live update on where 2019-nCoV has spread to, please go here.
I highly recommend the following three articles:
From the web:
From our Chief Opinionator:
A Culture needs to change
It is easy to find criticism in China’s handling of the coronavirus with lots of westerners claiming that they are hiding data or that they are openly lying (See CNBC’s Jim Cramer who has no proof whatsoever on his claim that China is lying. Perhaps he had shorted a lot of China related stocks.) Truth is, China is dealing with a crisis that is killing its own people, and as a country, they are doing their best to handle the situation. How many countries can honestly allow for a quarantine of multiple cities without its citizens up in arms against it?
However, quarantining isn’t the way to eradicate deadly zoonotic coronavirus. Similar to SARS, scientists speculate the 2019-nCov virus originated from bats, this time, with snakes being the intermediary. While it will be impossible to know for sure how it then got to humans, whether consumed or through unhygienic contact in a market, it is clear that there is no place in our food chain for bushmeat.
China is known for its exotic bushmeat cuisine that, by the way, has largely been banned. A legal loop hole, lack of enforcement and the inexplicable cultural desire to be different, has led to an unnecessary taste for bushmeat. A video of a young woman biting into a bat went viral as the whole city of Wuhan was being quarantined.
There is a casual Cantonese saying (One of China’s dialects mostly used in southern part of the country) that as long as the living creature has its back facing the sky, it can be consumed by humans. Even within China, this belief is a very southerner belief, something that the northern Chinese population frowns upon.
Truth is, the Chinese population has not needed to go hungry since the cultural revolution 50 years ago. The need to eat anything they can find is not a valid reason for eating bushmeat. It is the desire of eating something exotic that drives a demand for illegally traded, unregulated bushmeat cuisine. I’ve heard of friends traveling to China, paying upwards of USD1,000 for a taste of armadillo.
Banning isn’t enough. The government needs to reinforce and educate. A culture needs to change. This is not the first time a zoonotic coronavirus had originated from China. With an estimated 320,000 mammal viruses that have not yet been identified, unless such self-harming behaviour changes, the chance of us killing ourselves through unnecessary taste of exoticism grows.
This isn’t just a matter of protecting wildlife, this is also a matter of our own health and well-being.