WHO Team Seeks to Pinpoint Source of COVID-19

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16, 2020 — A World Health Organization team of experts will examine samples and medical data from China to try to find out where the new coronavirus first made the leap from animals to people.

Most experts believe the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 virus originated in animals in China, probably bats, the Associated Press reported.

The objective of the 10-person WHO team is to gather information to better prepare for possible future outbreaks, according to team member Fabian Leendertz, a German biologist who specializes in emerging diseases. “It’s really not about finding a guilty country,” Leendertz told the AP. “It’s about trying to understand what happened and then see if based on those data, we can try to reduce the risk in the future.”

The team is already talking with scientists in China and expects to travel there in January. They will likely start in Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported, though a precise itinerary has not yet been set, Leendertz said. Tracking down the animal in which the virus emerged will be key, so the group will take samples of further bat species and other animals that might harbor it. Leendertz added that the team has not been informed of any restrictions on their work in China beyond the typical two-week quarantine. In total, the mission is expected to last four to five weeks.

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