WHO Team to Visit China to Probe Novel Coronavirus Origins

A World Health Organisation (WHO) team will be making a visit to China next week to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and how it was transmitted to humans, ANI reported on Saturday, 4 July.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at WHO, told the news agency in an exclusive interview that a ‘thorough investigation’ is required to know the source of the virus. “A team is going to China next week to investigate the origins of the virus,” she said.

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Dr Soumya Swaminathan to ANI“What is needed now is a good investigation going back before December to find out where and how it jumped from animal to human. Was there any intermediate animal or not or it directly jumped from bat to humans which are also possible? Bats have been implicated in other viral diseases, Nipah for example. It is possible it came directly. It is also possible that there was an intermediate animal-like in the case of SARS. That thorough investigation still needs to be done.”

After the government in China reported an outbreak of ‘typical pneumonia cases’ from Wuhan on 31 December, the WHO country office in the country picked it up and ‘activated its international mechanisms’ the next day.

“Our WHO country office in China picked it up and on January 1, WHO activated its international mechanisms which we do as part of international health regulations whenever there’s any new signal gets reported. It is conveyed to everyone so that the whole world knows about it,” she said.

Adding that even though we know from virus sequences that SARS-CoV-2 is similar to bat viruses, she said, “We do not know more than that in the sense where and how it originated”.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan to ANI“A lot of studies have been done in South-East Asia to show that bats have lots of coronaviruses. There are over 500 types of coronaviruses. There are also previous studies showing that populations living in southern China and even in other countries of South-East Asia have antibodies to coronaviruses.”

Earlier in January, Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had spoken on January 29 about an agreement with China to send a team ‘as soon as possible’ to better understand the disease and the outbreak.

(With inputs from ANI)

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