The Pangolin’s Revenge?

The origins of the Coronavirus is by no means certain but preliminary reports suggest that it started in Horseshoe Bats and evolved to infect Pangolins and then humans. The poor little Pangolin is one of the most persecuted species on the planet hunted for its flesh and its scales which are used in traditional Chinese medicines.

The trade is illegal but enforcement is weak and in “wet markets” in Asia, sales carry on unhindered. Even as we speak, the Wuhan market is open once more and the trade carries on unabated!

The History of Zoonotic Diseases

The Coronavirus is now believed to have killed over 180,000 people across the globe but it has infected many more. Mortality is generally only around 3% of those who become infected so compared to some Zoonotic diseases, it is relatively survivable. Ebola which similarly evolved from bats to humans killed between 25% and 50% of those infected.

Zoonotic diseases are by no means uncommon. Perhaps the Black Death or Bubonic plague was one of the first noted which originated in rats and was transmitted by fleas.

Zoonotic diseases fall into three main categories namely viral, bacterial and parasitic. Coronavirus is of course a virus and the principle concern at present. Bacterial examples of zoonosis include TB, Anthrax, Salmonella & Toxoplasmosis. Parasitic are represented by diseases such as Malaria and Tapeworm (Hydatadosis)

Viral Diseases

In recent times, populations have succumbed to Ebola, MERS, SARS and now Coronavirus. Ebola originated in Africa, MERS in the Middle East, SARS and Coronavirus in Asia.

Ebola is by far the most dangerous causing fatalities in over 50% of cases. In comparison, the remainder kill around 3 to 5% of their hosts. Ebola is a haemorrhagic disease which means the patient bleeds internally and eventually their internal organs fail.

In contrast. MERS, SARS and Coronavirus all affect the respiratory system causing the equivalent of extremely severe pneumonia type symptoms. These organisms are all strands of RNA which attach to part of the genome in the body and thus effect adverse health changes.

All viral diseases are extremely contagious hence the extensive lockdown across the globe. At present, vaccines are not available although there are trials ongoing in the UK and the USA. The problem with viruses is that they frequently mutate before vaccines can be formulated and tested for regular use. In truth, changes in diet and lifestyle offer the best preventative measure for the future but photographs of bats, pangolins and alligators for sale in China and other S.E. Asian countries offer us little comfort for the future.

Since governments in these parts of the world are relatively authoritative, perhaps it is time they used that authority to enforce changes in diet and lifestyle for the health of all the nations across the globe not to mention the fact that caring for wildlife and domestic animals is not just good for animal welfare, it is also protection for human health.


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