Many years ago I asked my doctor, who was from the Philippines, where the flu came from and what caused it. He told me it primarily came from China and was caused by people handling chickens.
"Well, if they know that," I said, "why don't they do something about it?"
"I don't know," he replied and shrugged his shoulders.
It was a good question then and an even better question now. Of course, not all flus and viruses come from China, the Spanish Flu of 1918 being the most notable exception.
But in reality, many of them do, including: the Asian Flu (H2N2) of 1957, which killed over one million people worldwide; the Hong Kong Flu (H3N23) of 1968; the Bird Flu (H5N1) of 1997; the SARS epidemic of 2002 and 2003 in which China deliberately withheld information while the virus spread; and now the coronavirus (COVID-19) of 2020, which began in Wuhan, China, and has become a worldwide pandemic.
To understand why so many of the world's viruses originate in China, epidemiologists point to the fact that China is a crowded country with over a billion people; the tropical and sub-tropical weather conditions make it a perfect breeding ground for viruses to reproduce; and China is rife with crowded "wet markets", places where live animals, including exotic animals like bats, civets, and pangolins, are slaughtered and sold to the public.
There have been many articles written over the years about how these wet markets are the likely cause of the various viruses because of zoonosis, a condition where a virus can jump from an animal to a human. And in many of these wet markets, they have live animals sitting in cages directly beside their fresh meat, poultry, and seafood.
The scientific community has known for centuries that this is the most common way for humans to catch diseases. In fact, in his seminal book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Professor Jared Diamond makes the case that when primitive man went from being a hunter/gatherer to a farmer who lived amongst his livestock, he placed himself in jeopardy of catching all kinds of germs and diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhea.
Catching a flu strain at an unsanitary wet market is tantamount to the same thing. And the Chinese have known this for a long time, yet they have done next to nothing about it. Recently, they have banned the sale of exotic animals, but the wet markets are part of the Chinese culture, and it has been reported that the Wuhan wet markets, temporarily shut down because of the coronavirus, are back open.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which was created in 1948 and has dealt with diseases like HIV/AIDS and SARS, also has known about wet markets in China for a long time, but it too has done nothing about them. To be fair, the WHO is rather like the Better Business Bureau and has no real enforcement power over its members, of which China is one. But its leaders have a big megaphone and over the years could have alerted the world to this problem and demanded that China get its act together.
But they didn't. Neither did the scientific communities in the United States and Europe. Oh, there may have been an article here or there but nothing on a grand scale, nothing that would have put real pressure on China to change its ways. But why wasn't such an effort made? Was it because scientists were told to keep their mouths shut because the pharmaceutical industry was making a fortune selling vaccines and medication for the common cold and flu?
Someday we'll find out, but in the meantime we do know that in the current coronavirus pandemic, the WHO was late to reveal the truth about COVID-19 to the world and initially praised China's response to the virus--so did Trump, of course--even though China had initially stonewalled the truth and let the virus spread without concern for its own people and the citizens of other countries. But when it became so virulent so fast, the Chinese had no choice but to reveal the truth. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late. It had become a pandemic and they already had blood on their hands.
And now we come to the last of the trio with blood on his hands, our own favorite conman/narcissist who cares more about his self-image and chances of re-election than he does about doctors and nurses dying because they don't have the proper equipment to treat their patients, the "stable genius" who stuck his head in the sand for the entire month of February telling the country he had the virus "contained" as the infections and dead bodies mounted up across America.
When Donald Trump was first elected president, the general consensus among anyone who had half a brain was: Let's hope America doesn't have a real crisis while this buffoon is in office or we'll be in big trouble.
Well, he's still in office and we're in big trouble. Really big trouble. And the worst part? Trump still doesn't get it. He still thinks he can wise guy his way around the truth and convince everyone that we'll all be back to work in a few weeks and our economy will "be booming again".
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