Plagues from the east are nothing new. The Black Death and other epidemics arrived in Europe from China during the 1300’s, killing a large percentage of its population. Much of this pestilence came from rats that stowed away on merchant ships coming from the east.
At the end of World War I, another pandemic, wrongly called the Spanish flu, killed an estimated 18 to 50 million people in Europe and North America.
Seventeen years after the SARS virus killed some 800 people in China and Canada and terrified the entire world, a new plague threatens the West: the Wuhan Coronavirus.
Officially named 2019-nCoV, the new virus has so far infected over 800 people in China. This latest plague erupted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, population 11 million, which is located on the Yangtze River and is an important hub for national communications.
Like SARS, the Wuhan virus is believed to have come from a live animal market that specializes in exotic animals from the Himalayas or China’s remote mountain regions. Serving exotic animals at dinner parties is a big status symbol in China. Sometimes they are even served while still alive. Dog meat is a favorite in northern China.
SARS was believed to have come from civet cats. As a result, thousands of these creatures were brutally killed. But it was later determined the virus originated from bats, then spread to other captive animals. Bat soup is another Chinese delicacy.
Keeping large numbers of captive animals crammed together in cages with poor ventilation and no cleaning is an ideal vector for viral diseases. Each year, China consumes 730 million pigs. Fifty percent of China’s factory farmed pigs have so far contracted lethal swine flu. Rising living standards have boosted demand for pork.
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