Coronavirus Came From Bats, Says WHO

Image credits - Kim Raff for The New York Times
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A World Health Organization (WHO) scientist said COVID-19 comes from bats and can spread among cats, amid an international debate about the virus’s origin.

The novel coronavirus comes from a group of viruses that originate or spread in bats, and it’s still unclear what animal may have transmitted the disease to humans, Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO expert in animal diseases that jump to humans said in a briefing with reporters.

The virus probably arrived in humans through contact with animals raised to supply food, though scientists have yet to determine which species, he said.

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Studies have shown that cats and ferrets are susceptible to COVID-19, and dogs to a lesser extent, he said, without specifying whether they can transmit the disease to people. It’s important to find out which animals can get infected to avoid creating a “reservoir” in another species, he said.

WHO scientists are considering a new mission to China to get more information about the virus’s animal origin, Maria van Kerkhove, one of the agency’s top epidemiologists, said at a press briefing Wednesday.
Questions remain about whether the virus travelled directly from bats to people, or if other species were involved.

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Pangolins, armoured mammals that live in Asia, have been found to harbour versions of Sars-CoV-2 that are similar to those in people.

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