In Hunt for Covid-19 Origin, WHO Team Focuses on Two Animal Types in China

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In Hunt for Covid-19 Origin, WHO Team Focuses on Two Animal Types in China

World Health Organization investigators are honing their search for animals that could have spread the new coronavirus to humans, identifying two—ferret badgers and rabbits—that can carry the virus and were sold at a Chinese market where many early cases emerged.

Members of a WHO team probing the pandemic’s origins say further investigation is needed into suppliers of those and other animals at the market, some of which came from a region of China near its Southeast Asian borders where the closest known relatives of the virus have been found in bats.

Team members say they have yet to establish all the creatures sold, legally or illegally, live or dead, at the market in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was tied to the first known cluster of cases in December 2019.

China’s National Health Commission and foreign ministry declined to comment.

The WHO team is juggling multiple competing hypotheses and still isn’t sure if the virus first jumped from animals to humans at the market or if it was circulating elsewhere first. But working with the available evidence, they are gaining a stronger understanding of which animals could have plausibly been vectors.

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