Old science fiction hands will recall a common trope of their beloved genre. A huge disaster creeps up on humankind; slowly at first, with the author giving teasing hints, until the cataclysm is on us all and everyone can see how bad they’ve been. It was a technique perfected by John Wyndham in works such as The Kraken Wakes and The Day of the Triffids. Except in the case of Covid-19, it may have happened for real.
Up to now, the story of Covid-19 has been simple: it appeared at the very end of 2019 in Wuhan China, got out, and spread around the world, wreaking havoc on lives, economies and the licensed catering industry. There’s a load of argy-bargy about where it came from, who covered up what, who forgot to order vaccines, and so on. But that’s secondary. The real questions are: should we even be in this mess? And why didn’t we see it coming?
Because there is now increasing evidence that SARS-COV-2 was circulating well before the ground zero date of December 2019. Regular followers will recall our story in July about researchers in Barcelona who found clear evidence of SARS-Cov-2 in water samples from March 2019. Confession-we wondered if one day that would be put down to contamination or misidentification. Except it hasn’t. And now there is another link in the chain, to a study from Italy which found virus related antibodies in 14% of a set of blood samples which were taken in September 2019. Another study showed positive tests in Brazil in November 2019-that’s a long way from Wuhan. Some of this work has still to be peer-reviewed and everyone needs time to digest the implications-but are you beginning to wonder?
We don’t do personal stuff much here. But we are aware of several persons who contracted curious and rather nasty respiratory diseases in November 2019, some of them close to us, some who worked in the health services. Coincidence? Or was it because busy doctors had not been trained to look for COVID-19, so, very understandably, they didn’t find it?
All of which raises many questions and few answers. What has been the follow up, if any, to the Barcelona finding of March 2019? Why was there a strong detection signal in Brazil, if the virus was only supposed to be starting in far off Wuhan? Are there any other biological samples around the world from 2019 which are still fresh enough to look for the virus or its antibodies? And what about 2018? Don’t forget that the HIV virus was drifting around at low frequency for years before the big outbreak in 1981. Why the sudden jump for Sars-Cov-2 in Wuhan?
If we want to avoid another pandemic, we need to know a lot more about how this one started, and spread. How about a windfall tax on hedge funds, to do it once and for all?
We thank Buckinghamshire landowner Mr Gary Herbert for help with both the inspiration and research for this story
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