clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Coronavirus most likely jumped from animals to humans, WHO says

The World Health Organizations said it is unlikely the coronavirus leaked from a lab in China

Plainclothes security personnel prepare for duty outside the conference center where a press conference for the World Health Organization team will be held near the end of their mission in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.
Plainclothes security personnel prepare for duty outside the conference center where a press conference for the World Health Organization team will be held near the end of its mission in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. WHO officials said it is unlikely the coronavirus leaked from a lab in China.
Ng Han Guan, Associated Press

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the novel coronavirus most likely spread from animals to humans, dismissing an alternate theory that the virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, according to The Associated Press.

What happened

World Health Organization experts recently visited Wuhan, China, — where the coronavirus was first discovered — to provide clarity on the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, including the origins of the virus, according to The Associated Press.

  • The experts said the visit did not change their understanding of the virus’ origins — that it transferred from animals to humans, the AP reports.
  • The WHO said the virus could have hit other regions before Wuhan, but it went underreported, according to NBC News.
  • However, Peter Ben Embarek, the leader of the WHO team, said the visit did “add details to that story.”
  • “Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that story? Absolutely,” he said, according to CNBC.

More on the alternate theory

Embarek said the WHO-China team collected enough information to dismiss the theory that the virus started in a lab, saying the possibility was so improbable that it will not be researched in future studies from the WHO, the AP reports.

  • “The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

The original WHO theory

Back in January 2020, the World Health Organization said the mysterious virus — which, at the time, had killed one person and infected 40 others in China — had not spread outside its origin city, according to the South China Morning Post. And there was no link to human-to-human transmission, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • WHO in a statement (via SCMP): “The evidence is highly suggestive that the outbreak is associated with exposures in one seafood market in Wuhan.”
  • “At this stage, there is no infection among health care workers, and no clear evidence of human to human transmission.”

Of course, this isn’t what ended up happening. We later learned — from the World Health Organization — that the novel coronavirus does spread between humans, which led to the ongoing pandemic.