Coronavirus: looking for the cause in all the wrong places

Global travel no doubt contributes to polluting our planet, but is it really responsible for the spontaneous outbreaks of CoVID-19 (coronavirus) occurring around the world? The recent outbreak in Italy, which has not been linked to any human carrier, makes me wonder.

It is time to look into transmission beyond human-to-human.

Granted we humans are wonderful covert transmitters, infecting each other even before we know we’re coming down with something. For example, we can give each other viral gastroenteritis two days before we show any symptoms.

Some of our viral gifts stay hidden even longer. We can infect others with Hepatitis A for up to seven weeks before anyone would know we’re a carrier.

Despite the fact that influenza has been around for centuries, has caused pandemics, and has been the target of any number of vaccines, there are no evidence-based studies on the incubation period or period of infectiousness for influenza.

Vaccines are important because they can prevent the spread of disease and we don’t have to worry whether there are signs that people are infectious. That is why there is a frenzy of laboratories competing to find an effective inoculation. Especially since some gamblers are predicting the peak of the CoVID-19 outbreak will occur approximately four months after the first cases are reported.

The truth is we know very little about viral epidemics. We are so focussed on the subsequent human suffering we rarely look beyond ourselves for answers. It is time to look into our environment, for example to transmission beyond human-to-human.

Animal-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out as the vector for infections. Nearly three thousand strains of avian influenza virus strains have been isolated from ducks.  To add to the problem, not all animal outbreaks can be traced to spreaders or super spreaders. What if these outbreaks are spontaneous? Aspergillosis, a lung disease, spread to human from birds, is a spontaneous disease of poultry.

Tail biting is a common and spontaneous problem in pigs and can cause considerable complications for them and potentially for our pulled pork aficionados. Perhaps we should think twice about bringing home the bacon.

The complexity of transmission increases when we take into consideration that current regulations may not solve the problem. Recently in Portugal, batches of live sea urchins within the statutory sanitary limits for bacterial infections such as E. coli and Salmonella, were found to be positive for the Norovirus. What else might be lurking in the water and ice transporting our frozen seafoods all around the globe?

It is no wonder that quarantining carriers to managing pandemics may do no more than give us a false sense of safety. It is time to widen our lens and collect data on viral incubation periods and non-human transmission.  The health of our world may depend on it.

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