Well-researched scientific, but without science jargon, study on how COVID-19 started, what warnings were ignored, and how we can do better in the future. Because, unfortunately, there are more pandemics in humanity’s future.
Questions and Answers from the Book
- When did Chinese scientists first talk online about the mysterious pneumonia that evolved into COVID-19? December 30, 2019.
- Was the virus’ impact foreseen by scientists? Yes, a table top simulation mirroring a COVID-type pandemic was held in in 2019 at John Hopkins involving government and industry leaders. In 2014, the World Bank and the OECD placed a pandemic the top risk above terrorism.
- Should we just kill all the bats to stop future coronavirus pandemics? This was the number one question that I wanted to answer by reading this book. It seems like such an obvious answer.
91% of coronaviruses “live in bats, making them the world headquarters of coronavirus evolution.” A 2017 research review showed that “bats were still significantly more likely to harbor diseases affecting humans than any other group of mammals.” However, “it is actually hard to catch viruses directly from bats.” Plus, “nearly a quarter of all mammal species are bats.” That’s a lot of killing.
Instead, perhaps, we should try and determine how bats live perfectly well with all these viruses inside them. Bats’ ability to dampen their immune system’s response allows them to live decades with a virus. It also allows them to avoid cancer too. Both of those facts let them live twenty times longer than a similarly-sized mouse. Plus “bats are calculated to do $3.7 million worth of crop protection a year in the US alone” killing predatory insects. They pollinate fruits and plants including the cactus used for tequila.
- So how is the virus transferred to humans? The author suggests two ways. First, by stacking cages of different live wild animals in China’s wet markets. This allows the virus to move from bats to another animal to humans. Second, by use of bat guano (excrement) in traditional Chinese medicine. Because there is an underlying question, why do these types of viruses usually start to move into humans only in China? Perhaps because of the wet markets and traditional Chinese medicine that are only located and practiced there.
“Science didn’t fail us. The ability of governments to act on it, together, did.”
There were many warnings of the pandemic that went unheeded. Our current worldwide movement of goods and people between countries is definitely helping the spread of disease from country-to-country. Letting the US medical stockpile expire and our hospitals using just-in-time ordering systems, rather than stockpiling inventory, left us flat-footed as far as PPE when the pandemic hit. Hopefully, we will adjust our preparedness and response to better handle future pandemics.
If you found the questions and answers above interesting (and believe me they are only the tip of the iceberg of knowledge within the book, COVID-19), you will love this book as much as I did. 5 stars and one of my favorite science books this year!
Thanks to Hachette Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.