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3 Workers Died Of Pneumonia 7 Years Ago. Their Virus Is Linked To Coronavirus And A Lab In Wuhan, China

3 Workers Died Of Pneumonia 7 Years Ago. Their Virus Is Linked To Coronavirus And A Lab In Wuhan, China

Wuhan
Three workers died of pneumonia 7 years ago after being sent to collect bat poop in an abandoned mine. Their virus is linked to a lab in Wuhan, China. Images: Unsplash

Researchers have been aware for seven years of a deadly coronavirus that caused pneumonia, killing three men and sickening three others sent to collect bat feces in an abandoned copper mine in China.

Samples of a covid-like virus were sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China in 2013 that may shed light on unanswered questions about the origins of the global pandemic, Sunday Times reported.

The virus found in the bat cave that caused severe respiratory illness in six Chinese workers is the world’s closest known relative to the covid-19 virus, and scientists link it to their deaths.

Shi Zhengli, an expert in bat coronaviruses, said in a February 2020 paper that covid-19 was 96.2 percent similar to a coronavirus sample named RaTG13 from 2013. It is “almost certainly” the virus that was found in the abandoned mine, The Sunday Times reported.

The Wuhan lab has been blamed for leaking the virus that caused the global pandemic. However, the lab director disputes that, saying there is no evidence the lab was the source of the outbreak that began in Wuhan, Bloomberg reported. 

President Donald Trump claims to have seen evidence that the virus originated in a lab in China.


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Researchers warned the world in 2007 of the danger of coronavirus from bats, likening it to “a time bomb.” The Atlantic reported.

“The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb,” scientists said in an October 2007 research paper published in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews.

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The warning, made more than four years after the first wave of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, killed nearly 800 people globally, was among the earliest to predict the emergence of something like SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the current COVID-19 pandemic.

There were many other warnings but scientists were met with skepticism and inconsistent funding, preventing them from developing treatments and vaccines for SARS, “many of which could have been helpful in the current crisis,” The Atlantic reported. “Much of what we might have learned about SARS would have been relevant to covid-19, according to Michael Buchmeier, a virologist at the University of California at Irvine. ‘The viruses are so similar.'”

The U.S. is reporting 2,986,190 cases of coronavirus — more than 25 percent of the reported world total, and a quarter of global deaths.