Who caused COVID-19? We did

By Mike Zielinski

May 13, 2020

Mike Zielinski

I never saw screaming witches burned at the stake, Christians tossed to starving lions, maidens pushed over the edge of active volcanoes or men going to the electric chair.

But until I do, watching the devastation to lives, health and economies wrought by the coronavirus pandemic is my idea of cruel and inhumane punishment.

Punishment that has been self-inflicted.

We have met the enemy and it is us.

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down and it could be years, if ever, until it returns to right side up.

Even on sunny days, life now seems drenched in sheets of lightning-bleached rain.

It is difficult to believe that this pandemic is the end result of millions and millions of years of evolution.

When it hit us like a wrecking ball to the gut, we hit the pause button on our lives to save lives, but fiscal imperatives dictate that we get back to business even if it means a spike in coffin sales.

As the body counts blossom like unwanted dandelions, as we are separated from families, friends and workplaces and as we straddle the dangerously slippery tightrope between trying to breathe some life into an economy that is on life support and triggering even more infections and deaths, we only have ourselves to blame.

Think about that every time you look in the mirror.

I watched Fareed Zakaria’s program on CNN Sunday morning on which he interviewed Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist and virus hunter.

Daszak has a job you and I would never do. But as the old adage goes, somebody has to do it. He goes into bat caves to get their saliva or blood to determine the origins of a virus.

We have seen viruses jump from animals to humans with greater frequency in recent years. SARS, MERS, Ebola, bird flu and swine flu all started as viruses in animals that jumped to humans.

Daszak knows this was not just a random run of bad luck.

As he told Zakaria: “We are doing things every day that make pandemics more likely. We need to understand, this is not just nature. It is what we are doing to nature.”

Selfish us.

Most viruses come from animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that three-quarters of new human diseases originate in animals.

The coronavirus was not spawned in a Chinese lab despite White House conspiracy theorists playing the blame game.

It might have come from one of the wildlife markets in Wuhan, China where live animals are slaughtered and sold. These disgusting wet markets should be outlawed around the world because they are petri dishes of death.

Then there is the expansion of human civilization. Mankind perpetually ventures into new territory. I imagine territorial imperative is in our DNA. But now as mankind expands and destroys natural habitats of wild animals, we bring them ever closer to us.

You do not have to be a scientist to know that this facilitates the transmission of diseases from animal to humans.

COVID-19 appears to have originated in bats, who are only cute on Halloween and particularly nasty incubators for viruses. Human expansion leads bats to look for food around farms where they infect livestock and in turn humans.

Mankind’s love of meat has carved a path wider than a four-lane highway for pathogens. Most livestock are factory farmed, which entails shoehorning thousands of animals into gruesome conditions that incubate virulent viruses.

I confess to being part of this. I enjoy a good steak as much as the next guy.

Then there is climate change that transforms ecosystems, forcing more animals out of their habitats and transforming previously temperate conditions into tropical.

The wetter and warmer climate makes it easier to transmit diseases. As man screws with ecosystems, diseases long dormant emerge from the muck and blindside us because we have no immunity.

What have we done to our planet? What have we done to ourselves? Will there be a procession of pandemics that will indelibly change our lives for the worst?

Once upon a time we could always shoot our enemies. But we are not going to shoot ourselves. Then again, perhaps we already have

More than 32,000 turkeys euthanized after deadly bird flu found in SC flock

An infectious and fatal strain of bird flu has been confirmed in a commercial turkey flock in South Carolina, the first case of the more serious strain of the disease in the United States since 2017 and a worrisome development for an industry that was devastated by previous outbreaks.

An infectious and fatal strain of bird flu has been confirmed in a commercial turkey flock in South Carolina, the first case of the more serious strain of the disease in the United States since 2017 and a worrisome development for an industry that was devastated by previous outbreaks.

The high pathogenic case was found at an operation in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, marking the first case of the more dangerous strain since one found in a Tennessee chicken flock in 2017. In 2015, an estimated 50 million poultry had to be killed at operations mainly in the Upper Midwest after infections spread throughout the region.

“Yes, it’s concerning when we see cases, but we are prepared to respond very quickly and that was done in this case,” said Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The USDA has been working in recent months with scientists and farmers in North Carolina and South Carolina, where a low pathogenic — or less severe — strain of bird flu had been detected.

Low pathogenic bird flu causes few clinical signs in infected birds. However, two strains of low pathogenic bird flu — the H5 and H7 strains — can mutate into highly pathogenic forms, which are frequently fatal to birds and easily transmissible between susceptible species.

Low pathogenic cases were already in an area near the South Carolina and North Carolina state line and USDA was closely monitoring and testing. The case in Chesterfield County, South Carolina was expected to be another low pathogenic case, but it came back from the laboratory high pathogenic which means the less severe virus mutated into the more severe version, Cole said.

“Our scientists at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory had looked at the virus characteristics of the low path virus and they had previously indicated that this was one that was probably likely to mutate so they were watching it very closely,” Cole said.

A laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the virus with that had been killing turkeys was a high pathogenic H7N3 strain of avian influenza.

A report on the outbreak indicates in was discovered on April 6. It has killed 1,583 turkeys and the remainder of the 32,577 birds in the flock were euthanized.

State officials quarantined the farm, movement controls were implemented and enhanced surveillance was already in place in the area.

“The flock was quickly depopulated and will not enter the marketplace,” said Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation, an industry trade group. “Thorough disinfecting and cleaning procedures have already been initiated on premises as well as surveillance of commercial flocks in the surrounding area. This occurrence poses no threat to public health. Turkey products remain safe and nutritious.”

He said poultry farmers implement strict biosecurity measures year-round and routinely test flocks for avian influenza.

These measures were implemented after an H5N2 avian influenza outbreak that began in December 2014 swept commercial chicken, egg laying and turkey populations throughout much of 2015 killing 50 million birds and causing as much as $3 billion in economic damage. That outbreak is believed to have originated in wild birds.

Nearly 90 percent of the bird losses were on egg-laying chicken farms in Iowa and turkey farms in Minnesota. The bulk of other cases occurred in the adjacent states of Nebraska, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Cole said since 2015 significant planning, exercises and coordination has occurred between the federal government, state agencies and the industry.

Cole said the coronavirus pandemic has not affected the ability of the government to respond to the bird flu.

A highly pathogenic H7N9 bird flu strain was detected in Lincoln County, Tennessee, in a chicken flock of 73,500 birds in early March 2017. Ten days later samples from a commercial flock less than two miles away also tested positive for the same strain. The birds were euthanized and buried and the virus didn’t spread further indicating immediate mitigation action can stop spread.

Covid-19 isn’t India’s only battlefront, swine flu killed nine people last month

Amidst the global coronavirus scare, an old enemy has reared its head again in India.

In the country’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, nine people have died of swine fule since Feb. 1.

Swine flu is a communicable respiratory disease caused by a subtype of influenza A virus called H1N1. Its first outbreak was reported in 2009 globally and soon it was declared a pandemic by the WHO.

On Feb. 29, a team of doctors reached UP’s Meerut town after over 400 personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary were suspected to have contracted swine flu. Of these, 19 tested positive.

Last month, German software giant SAP shut down its offices in India for an “extensive sanitation” after two employees tested positive for H1N1 at its Bengaluru headquarters. The company temporarily closed its offices at Gurugram and Mumbai, too.

In the last week of February, five supreme court judges of India were reportedly diagnosed with swine flu. While three of them have resumed duties, two are recuperating and in isolation, The Times of India reported on Feb. 26.

By Feb. 16, around 884 people had tested positive for H1N1 across India, with 14 recorded deaths, according to the New Delhi-based National Centre for Disease Control. Last year, the number of deaths was 1,218 out of 28,798 reported cases.

“Not a disease”

While India’s health ministry is organising awareness drives, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, on Sunday, claimed the flu was not a disease.

“I found there was information about some number of people dying of swine flu in Meerut. Flu is not a disease. When the weather changes, some people catch a cold. It is flu in itself. Based on what it causes, we call some as swine flu or bird flu or by any other name,” he said on Sunday in Lucknow, the state capital.

China sees bird flu outbreak near coronavirus epicenter: report

As Chinese officials grapple to contain an outbreak of novel coronavirus that’s sickened more than 17,000 people and killed some 361 others, another disease is causing concern: bird flu.


The country has reported an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Hunan province, which borders Hubei province, where the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak is located, the South China Morning Post reported.

The outbreak was first reported on a farm that’s home to nearly 8,000 chickens. So far, some 4,500 chickens at the farm have died from bird flu. Others have been culled to prevent the disease from spreading, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a statement, according to the South China Morning Post.

The outbreak of bird flu was reported at a farm near the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China. (iStock)

The outbreak of bird flu was reported at a farm near the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China. (iStock)

Bird flu is a viral infection that can affect birds and humans alike. Symptoms typically include cough, diarrhea, fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches and more.  However, no human cases of H5N1 have been reported at this time.


The news comes as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased over the weekend, with 11 cases now confirmed in the country. As of Monday morning, there are six in California, one in Arizona, one in Washington state, one in Massachusetts and two in Illinois. No deaths have been reported in the U.S. and the large majority of cases still remain in China.

Bird flu, Sars, China coronavirus. Is history repeating itself?

Asian Angle by Keith B. Richburg


Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Centre in China, where some people infected with the new virus are being treated. Photo: APStaff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Centre in China, where some people infected with the new virus are being treated. Photo: AP
Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Centre in China, where some people infected with the new virus are being treated. Photo: AP

Sometimes history seems to unspool in a continuous playback loop. That is the feeling from watching Hongkongers donning face masks, dousing hands with sanitiser and once again bracing for the possibility of a deadly new virus outbreak originating in mainland China spreading here.

Chinese authorities’ delayed response, the secrecy breeding mistrust, the lack of full transparency and efforts to control the narrative by downplaying the seriousness – it all rings sadly familiar.

Public health emergencies should be handled quickly, transparently and devoid of political considerations. But public health is inherently political, and with anything involving China, politics can never be fully excised. For

Chinese Communist

officials, particularly at the provincial level, there is an innate tendency to cover up and conceal, their long-imbued penchant for secrecy always taking precedence over trifling concerns like promoting public awareness and advocating proper precautions.

Beyond the coronavirus: deadly diseases Hong Kong and Asia have beaten before
23 Jan 2020

That was certainly the case in late 1997, just after China’s assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong, when the territory was hit by an outbreak of the H5N1 virus known as “bird flu”. Well into the outbreak, with people sick and some dying, Hong Kong officials were reluctant to finger China as the source, even though 80 per cent of the territory’s poultry came from the mainland. Hong Kong ordered the slaughter of more than 1.3 million chickens, ducks, pigeons and other birds, but officials were still nonsensically hesitant to point to China as the culprit behind the contagion out of fear of contradicting Beijing which insisted, wrongly, that all its chickens were healthy.

Staff at the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Pak Tam Chung, Sai Kung. Lady Maclehose is one of two designated quarantine facilities in Hong Kong for the Wuhan coronavirus. Photo: Nora Tam
Staff at the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Pak Tam Chung, Sai Kung. Lady Maclehose is one of two designated quarantine facilities in Hong Kong for the Wuhan coronavirus. Photo: Nora Tam
The same obfuscation and denial came from China’s Communist authorities in reaction to the SARS epidemic in late 2002 and 2003. Even as the virus spread, Chinese officials continued to undercount cases and delay reporting information to the

World Health Organisation


The government did not warn the public for months, allowing people carrying the virus to migrate freely, and did not alert the WHO until February 2003. China finally began concerted action in the summer of 2003, and SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome – was quickly brought under control. But the inadequate reporting and delayed response led to a public health trust deficit that persists today.

Like bird flu in 1997 and the SARS epidemic of 2002-03, the newest


has originated in the mainland, this time in Wuhan, most likely in a market where exotic wild animals are sold. Like before, there are suspicions that in these early stages the number of confirmed cases were undercounted, under-reported or both. Like before, there were delays and denials, with Wuhan officials initially downplaying the virus as mild, treatable and contained while dismissing the likelihood of human-to-human transmission. Those who disagreed online were questioned by police for spreading “false rumours”.

Asian officials fear coronavirus outbreak is larger than China’s letting on
22 Jan 2020
But 2020 is not 1997, nor even 2003. China’s public health infrastructure and reporting system have become more reliable. Most importantly, internet use and penetration in China today makes it virtually impossible for a cover-up to last for long. Despite censorship of some news about the virus – including blocking foreign media websites –

social media

platforms have been filled with debate, discussion and questions from citizens asking what precautions they should take.

Also, state media made much of President

Xi Jinping’s

instruction to local officials to open up about the number of cases and the severity of the epidemic, or risk consequences. And WHO investigators and Hong Kong specialists have been allowed to visit Wuhan.

Workers disinfect Oceanaire residence in Ma On Shan, where a person thought to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus lives. Photo: Winson Wong
Workers disinfect Oceanaire residence in Ma On Shan, where a person thought to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus lives. Photo: Winson Wong

Does this signal that Beijing is opting for a new policy of transparency this time?

“It’s still very mixed,” said my colleague Dr King-wa Fu, who studies

Chinese censorship

patterns at the University of Hong Kong. “We see censorship. But we also see a lot of discussion online. We’ll have to wait and see.”

The rapid spiral in the number of identified virus cases, and the new draconian measures taken, like effectively quarantining Wuhan at the start of the busy

Lunar New Year

travel period, breeds suspicion that the real picture may be far worse than officials even now admit.

‘No Chinese allowed’: Japanese shop criticised for coronavirus sign
22 Jan 2020

Even the quarantine smacks of too little, too late. It seems ill-planned, and likely to be largely ineffective. First there is the near impracticality of sealing off a city of 11 million people, larger than the populations of Hong Kong or New York City. The move was taken the day before the New Year’s Eve travel period, when many people would have already started on their journeys. Planes, trains and buses were halted, but it was unclear what provisions would be made for private cars. Perhaps most inexplicably, the ban was announced to take effect at 10am on a Thursday, creating an early-morning crush of travellers trying to get out ahead of the quarantine.

Then there’s the matter of whether such a closure of Wuhan could even be effective. Some public health experts I spoke with said there seems to have been no provision made for getting food, fuel and critical supplies like medicine into the city, or how investigators, decision makers or even journalists would enter – and whether they would then be permitted to leave. And while the closure might temporarily tamp down the virus’s geographical spread – apart from those residents who have already left – it could also have the unintended effect of turning Wuhan into an incubator of infection.

Both the Hong Kong and Chinese central governments are facing crises of confidence.

Travellers at the High Speed Rail Station in West Kowloon take precautions against the Wuhan coronavirus. Photo: Winson Wong
Travellers at the High Speed Rail Station in West Kowloon take precautions against the Wuhan coronavirus. Photo: Winson Wong
The Hong Kong government was already facing a loss of public confidence after

months of protests

sparked by Chief Executive

Carrie Lam’s

botched extradition bill. Some pro-democracy lawmakers and ordinary citizens are accusing the government of dragging its feet on the virus crisis for fear of offending Beijing – for example, not shutting down the West Kowloon rail terminus, and not immediately demanding arriving mainland train passengers fill out health declaration forms. Bird flu redux.

For the Chinese Communist Party, which just celebrated 70 years in power, its legitimacy derives not from any election but from its performance. China’s leaders base their right to rule on how effectively they have managed what is soon to be the world’s largest economy.

One may have thought China’s leaders had learned from their errors handling SARS. Unfortunately, history teaches us otherwise, and seems to be repeating itself again.

Professor Keith B. Richburg, a former Washington Post correspondent, is Director of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre

Hundreds of Thousands of Poultry to be Killed as Bird Flu Hits Hungary

Bird flu has appeared yet again in Hungary on a large turkey farm in Ács, and a duck farm in Létavértes. To prevent the spread of the virus, authorities will kill the infected animals. The chief veterinary officer ordered the poultry to be kept indoors throughout the country. The detected H5N8 subtype of the virus has never infected any humans in Europe, so it is still safe to consume poultry products.

53,500 turkeys have to be killed at a poultry farm near Ács in Komárom-Esztergom County after the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus was detected, the National Food Chain Safety Office (Nébih) wrote in their press release on Monday.

Farmers will be compensated by the government for the slaughtering of livestock, the statement emphasizes.

As the disease is spread by wild birds, the chief veterinary officer has ordered the birds on poultry farms to be kept indoors throughout the country.

According to current disease control regulations, the animals have to be fed and watered in closed areas, and protected from wild birds. Feed must also be kept indoors and litter must be stored in such a way as to avoid contact with wild birds.

The authorities are now inspecting all poultry farms within a 10-kilometer radius of the affected turkey farm and have introduced shipping restrictions to prevent the spread of the infection.

After the first case was reported, agriculture news portal magyarmezogazdag.hu asked Nébih whether further outbreaks can be expected in Hungary.

In their response, the food safety office noted that the disease caused by the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has already spread to several European countries over the past year, thus the risk of infection due to wild bird migration is still present.

Not long after this, on Wednesday, Nébih detected another farm affected by H5N8 bird flu virus at Létavértes, in eastern Hungary.

115,000 ducks are set to be killed there. Nébih said it is likely the ducks had been infected by wild birds from a nearby lake.

The outbreak started in the UK at the end of last year, followed by several reports from Poland; later, the presence of the virus was also confirmed in Slovakia.

The National Food Chain Safety Authority had previously warned Hungarian farmers to strive to comply with disease control regulations and to ensure that their animals were not exposed to wild birds.

The H5N8 virus strain first caused the outbreak of a serious epidemic in Asia in early 2014, and then appeared in Europe in November 2014. The last time Hungary had to deal with the disease was in 2016-2017. The current virus strain is very similar to the one detected in 2016.

The 2016 outbreak lasted until spring 2017, and in just a few months caused devastating damage in the country. Due to the virus, the Hungarian authorities had to slaughter 2.66 million birds. The resulting damages amounted to 11 billion HUF. Although the disease affected all areas of the poultry sector, waterbird farms suffered the greatest blow.

Featured photo via Pixabay

Bird flu hits goose and turkey farms in Poland and Hungary

Reports are emerging of bird flu outbreaks (H5N8 and sub-type) in Europe, with thousands of birds being culled to prevent further spread.


14 January 2020, at 12:33pm

A new outbreak of bird flu was reported in Poland on Monday (13 January), with around 6,000 geese now set to be exterminated, a regional spokesman confirmed to Reuters, adding to about half a dozen cases already detected across the country since December.

“Six thousand geese at the farm (are) set for extermination, the state veterinary inspectorate has already taken steps,” Tomasz Stube, the spokesman for the Wielkopolska region told Reuters.

The strain of the virus was a sub-type of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu, Polish state news agency PAP reported, which can also pose a threat to human health.

Last month’s outbreak in Poland, Europe’s largest poultry producer, was preceded by an outbreak in 2017.

The H5N8 strain of bird flu has also been found at a large turkey farm in northwestern Hungary, the National Food Chain Safety Authority (NEBIH) said on Monday.

Slovakia, Hungary’s northern European Union neighbour, reported its first outbreak of the same highly pathogenic strain of the virus in nearly three years in backyard poultry farms in the western part of the country on Friday.

Hungary’s NEBIH said the full turkey stock at the farm, more than 50,000 birds, would have to be culled and other precautionary measures implemented to contain the spread of the infection. It said the farm would receive state compensation.

The authority said the strand of the virus was very similar to the one Hungary tackled during a previous outbreak in 2016. It said poultry products in Hungary were safe to consume.

Hungary will also implement transport restrictions to contain the virus, the authority said, adding that the H5N8 strain had so far caused no human infections in Europe.

The Poultry Site

China reports six new bird flu cases, one death Posted by SDD Contributor on December 17, 2019 at 4:5

China reports six new bird flu cases, one death

China reports six new bird flu cases, one death

BEIJING, April 2 (Reuters) – China reported six new cases of H7N9 bird flu including one death in Hunan after live poultry markets in the province were shuttered last month.

The infections were reported in the last week of March by the provincial centre for disease control and prevention, according to a report by Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

A total ban on live poultry trading in the provincial capital of Changsha has been in effect since March 17 and will continue for another five days, the agency said.

In March authorities reported an outbreak of the virus in the province originating from a farm with about 29,760 infected birds. Over 170,000 birds were culled as a result.

The number of human infections this season has surged to the highest level since 2009. At least 162 deaths have been reported since October.

Health authorities said that cold and wet weather in Hunan played a role in the recent spread of the virus. (Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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Avian flu inflicts more losses on Mexican fighting birds

New cases also emerge in South Africa and Taiwan

Three further outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been confirmed in Mexico.

According to the latest report from the national animal health agency, Senasica, to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), all the cases were in backyard flocks of fighting birds. Outbreaks were confirmed between September 30…


Importing of Chilean turkey meat restricted after discovery of bird flu

Imports to Argentina, Peru and Hong Kong restricted. Outbreak of a low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus is under control, the Chilean State Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) reported Wednesday.

The importing of Chilean turkey meat has been restricted in Argentina, Peru and Hong Kong, due to an outbreak of bird flu in central Chile.

The outbreak, of a low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus, is under control, the Chilean State Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) reported on Wednesday.

“Regarding shipments of poultry and its products from Chile to various markets, the SAG has been notified of restrictions only on the part of Argentina, Peru and Hong Kong,” the SAG said in a statement.

The three nations made that determination after an outbreak was detected on August 27 in a turkey pen at the Sopraval company, located in the Los Nogales commune, Valparaíso, 120 kilometres west of Santiago.

Some 65,000 animals were slaughtered and as the authorities took control.

“From the point of view of the population’s health, this event does not represent a risk, given that the consumption of meat and poultry by-products does not pose any danger of transmission to humans,” added the SAG.

Chilean officials will now conduct an investigation to determine the causes of the occurrence of bird flu in Chile. Surveillance will also be carried out within a radius of two kilometres from the area where the outbreak occurred.

Samples have been taken from more than 1.5 million birds “and all the results have been negative for the disease,” the SAG added.

In 2017, 35,000 turkeys were slaughtered after bird flu was detected in two bird farms in the Valparaíso region, which led Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay to suspend the importation of turkeys from Chile.