Coronavirus outbreak: Why is China home to the world’s deadliest pandemic diseases? Know the reasons!

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China has been home to various deadly diseases in recent years, starting from bird flu, to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the much recent novel coronavirus (nCOV). The prime reason behind this could lie in the presence of busy food markets across the country where fruits, vegetables and meat are often sold next to bamboo rats and snakes. Closely knit markets and the high population density of Chinese cities creates the circumstances for the spread of such zoonotic infections and viruses, as reported in The Indian Express. Zoonotic infections are mainly diseases that are spread through transmission between people and vertebrate animals. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), millions of people across the globe die every year because of these infections.

The presence of animal markets everywhere in China could also be one of the major reasons behind the outbreak of such pandemic infections. A senior WHO functionary reportedly said that wherever the is a close mixing of humans and animals, especially if it involves unregulated handling of blood and other body parts, there is a severe chance of such viruses being transmitted from animals to humans. Such mutation usually happens in China's animal markets due to the close proximity between human beings and animals there. The president of Public Health Foundation of India, Dr K Srinath Reddy also said that most pandemic diseases over the past 50 years have risen from microbes that have been transmitted from animals to humans. Though such infections have happened outside China too but the country’s love for exotic animal food and its population density make it the prime ground for such deadly diseases.

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Thirdly, the presence of about 1.4 billion people and over 50 per cent of the world’s livestock, the ecology in China poses a huge risk of the outbreak of deadly viruses and novel diseases. These diseases could then threaten the country and also other countries across the globe. According to US federal agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the growth in the air travel network across the globe has dramatically increased the risk of such infections being spread rapidly and can pose a costly disturbance to international trade.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic began in China in November 2002 and soon spread across the world. In 2013, the first H7N9 novel avian influenza broke out in China leading to the spread of various provenances of bird flu. In the present case of the coronavirus outbreak in China’s Wuhan city, the Regional Director for the Western Pacific of WHO, Dr Takeshi Kasai said that this year, China needs to be more vigilant against SARS, bird flu and other recent outbreaks in the region. As quoted by The Indian Express, Dr Kasai said, "These were threats that put people's health and safety and economic development at risk... It is fair to ask: are we safer from health security threats than we were a decade ago, following the H1N1 influenza pandemic? Or than we were when SARS emerged 17 years ago?"