Thousands of people may be affected by animals carrying coronavirus each year in China and Southeast Asia. According to a study this ongoing threat from spillover events. An average of 400,000 infections occurs annually most are unrecognized because they cause mild and no symptoms, aren’t transmitted easily in people.
Researchers said on Thursday that each spillover represents an opportunity for viral adaption that could spread a covid like an outbreak.
The question of where and how the virus that causes Covid emerged has become particularly contentious, with some leaders blaming a hypothetical leak from a lab in Wuhan, China that studies the pathogens. The research, supported by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, builds on evidence that bats are the main host animals for viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and that people living near their roosts are especially vulnerable.
“This is probably the first attempt to estimate how often people are infected with SARS-related coronaviruses from bats,” said Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney who wasn’t involved in the research. Humans are continually exposed to bat coronaviruses, he said. “Given the right set of circumstances, one of these could eventually lead to a disease outbreak.”
Almost two dozen bat species that can be infected by coronaviruses dwell in an area of Asia more than six times the size of Texas, with southern China and parts of Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia deemed the riskiest for spillovers. Peter Daszak and colleagues at the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance used bat distribution modeling
and ecological and epidemiological data to estimate the risk of exposure to SARS-related coronaviruses, and the rate of unreported bat-to-human infections in China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
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