The Trump administration began the formal process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO), a White House official said Tuesday, even as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the country.
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Even though China recently banned open air markets that trade wildlife, the government has issued guidelines for treating COVID-19 that include medicines containing bear bile, according to National Geographic.
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China has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 2,700 lives and infected more than 81,000 people, most of them in China, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
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China banned its trade in wild animals Sunday until the new coronavirus, which was linked to a market in Wuhan where wildlife was sold, is eradicated. Now, conservationists are calling on the country to make the ban permanent.
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By Gudrun Heise
With an unknown lung disease apparently spreading in China, could there be a new outbreak akin to SARS? Not necessarily. Authorities have yet to identify it. And many respiratory illnesses are caused by viruses.
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Snakes – the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra – may be the original source of the newly discovered coronavirus that has triggered an outbreak of a deadly infectious respiratory illness in China this winter.
The many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus), also known as the Taiwanese krait or the Chinese krait, is a highly venomous species of elapid snake found in much of central and southern China and Southeast Asia. Briston/Wikimedia / CC BY-SA
An electron microscopic image reveals the crown shape structural details for which the coronavirus was named. This image is of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
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Warning: The video above may be upsetting to viewers.
An amusement park in China came under fire on social media this weekend for forcing a pig off a 230 foot-high bungee tower.
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On Dec. 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) country office in China was informed of 27 patients with pneumonia of unclear cause in Wuhan — a metropolis with 19 million inhabitants in Hubei province.
The Good News<p>Eight patients are currently considered cured and have reportedly left the hospital.</p><p>Having identified the virus, experts are one step further in their search for what is triggering the mysterious <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/unknown-lung-disease-in-china/a-51902586" target="_blank">lung disease</a>.</p><p>The pathogen's gene sequence has been deciphered, according to the head of the team of Chinese experts, Xu Jianguo.</p><p>He said the cause is a new type of coronavirus found in the blood and saliva of 15 patients. An investigation into what brought about the outbreak will continue. </p><p>Gauden Galea, a WHO representative in China, also confirmed the discovery of the new strain of the coronavirus <a href="https://www.who.int/china/news/detail/09-01-2020-who-statement-regarding-cluster-of-pneumonia-cases-in-wuhan-china" target="_blank">in a statement</a>.</p><p>According to the WHO, the quick preliminary identification of the novel virus is a notable achievement and demonstrates China's increased capacity to manage new outbreaks.</p>
What are coronaviruses?<p>Coronaviruses were first found in humans in the 1960s. The name is derived from their appearance under the microscope: The peplomers, the outwardly protruding protein structures of the virus envelope, are arranged in the form of a crown (from Latin: <em>corona</em>).</p><p>Coronaviruses are common and infections are often harmless with patients developing only flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. Gastrointestinal complaints, especially diarrhea, can also occur. The incubation time for a coronavirus can vary from a few days to two weeks. </p>
How is the virus transmitted?<p>Zoonoses can be transmitted through direct contact between animals and humans as well as — like with many germs — simply through the air, such as by coughing or sneezing.</p><p>But there are many other ways of infection, for example through food or vectors. A mosquito, tick or other insect can transport a pathogen from the host to another organism without becoming ill itself. </p><p>In addition, zoonoses can also be transmitted via food, for example when eating meat or animal products. If these are not sufficiently heated or if they were prepared under unhygienic conditions, they also represent a source of infection.</p>
Lunar New Year: Be safe<p>Compared to the major instances of SARS and MERS, the current coronavirus outbreak is small, but experts said it should not be underestimated.</p><p>China is, therefore, exercising caution regarding the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in late January. Millions of people travel in buses, trains and airplanes to celebrate the holiday.</p><p>Wang Yang, the Chinese Transport Ministry's chief engineer, said authorities will step up efforts to prevent the pneumonia outbreak from spreading further during the holiday period, including ensuring proper disinfection in major public transportation hubs like airport and train stations.</p><p>Other Asian countries also stepped up precautions on entry, especially for travelers from Wuhan, and introduced fever controls to prevent the feared spread of the virus. To date, there are 16 suspected cases in Hong Kong, and a possible patient has been reported in Singapore. Not in all of the cases have a direct connection to Wuhan.</p>
How to protect yourself?<p>The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/pneumonia-china" target="_blank">released a statement warning</a> travelers to Wuhan to avoid animal markets and contact with animals or uncooked meat. People in the area should also avoid the sick and wash their hands frequently with soap and water.</p><p>Those who have been to Wuhan and feel ill should seek medical help immediately and avoid contact with others, the report said.</p><p>Before the doctor is consulted, the practice or clinic should be informed about the travel history and symptoms.</p><p>The WHO did not issue a specific travel warning.</p>
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By Neil Carter
Tigers are one of the world's most iconic wild species, but today they are endangered throughout Asia. They once roamed across much of this region, but widespread habitat loss, prey depletion and poaching have reduced their numbers to only about 4,000 individuals. They live in small pockets of habitat across South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Russian Far East — an area spanning 13 countries and 450,000 square miles (1,160,000 square kilometers).
Letting Humans In<p>Road construction <a href="http://tigers.panda.org/news/asias-infrastructure-development-threatens-worlds-tigers/" target="_blank">worsens existing threats to tigers</a>, such as poaching and development, by paving the way for human intrusion into the heart of the tiger's range. For example, in the Russian Far East, roads have led to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.2008.00458.x" target="_blank">higher tiger mortality</a> due to increased collisions with vehicles and more encounters with poachers.</p><p>To assess this threat across Asia, we focused on areas called Tiger Conservation Landscapes — 76 zones, scattered across the tiger's range, which conservationists see as crucial for the species' recovery. For each zone we calculated road density, distance to the nearest road and relative mean species abundance, which estimates the numbers of mammals in areas near roads compared to areas far from roads. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1522488113" target="_blank">Mean species abundance</a> is our best proxy for estimating how roads affect numbers of mammals, like tigers and their prey, across broad scales.</p><p>We also used <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aabd42" target="_blank">future projections of road building</a> in each country to forecast the length of new roads that might be built in tiger habitats by 2050.</p>
More Roads, Fewer Animals<p>We estimated that more than 83,300 miles (134,000 kilometers) of roads already exist within tiger habitats. This is likely an underestimate, since many logging or local roads are missing from the global data set that we used.</p><p>Road densities in tiger habitat are one-third greater outside of protected areas, such as national parks and tiger reserves, than inside of protected areas. Non-protected areas averaged 1,300 feet of road per square mile (154 meters per square kilometer), while protected areas averaged 980 feet per square mile (115 meters per square kilometer). For tiger populations to grow, they will need to use the forests outside protected areas. However, the high density of roads in those forests will jeopardize tiger recovery.</p><p>Protected areas and priority conservation sites — areas with large populations of tigers — are not immune either. For example, in India — home to more than <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/07/29/746237332/census-finds-nearly-3-000-tigers-in-india" target="_blank">70% of the world's tigers</a> — we estimate that a protected area of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_reserves_of_India" target="_blank">500 square miles, or 1,300 square kilometers</a>, contains about 200 miles (320 kilometers) of road.</p><p>Road networks are expansive. More than 40% of areas where tiger breeding has recently been detected — crucial to tiger population growth — is within just 3 miles (5 kilometers) of a nearby road. This is problematic because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2010.02.009" target="_blank">mammals often are less abundant</a> this close to roads.</p><p>In fact, we estimate that current road networks within tiger habitats may be reducing local populations of tigers and their prey by about 20%. That's a major decrease for a species on the brink of extinction. And the threats from roads are likely to become more severe.</p>
Estimated road densities for 76 tiger conservation landscapes (colored zones), with darker red indicating more roads per unit area. Neil Carter / CC BY-ND
Making Infrastructure Tiger-Friendly<p>Our findings underscore the need for planning development in ways that interfere as minimally as possible with tiger habitat. Multilateral development banks and massive ventures like the Belt and Road Initiative can be important partners in this endeavor. For example, they could help establish an international network of protected areas and habitat corridors to safeguard tigers and many other wild species from road impacts.</p><p>National laws can also do more to promote <a href="https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/27751" target="_blank">tiger-friendly infrastructure planning</a>. This includes keeping road development away from priority tiger populations and other "no go" zones, such as tiger reserves or habitat corridors.</p><p>Zoning can be used around infrastructure to prevent settlement growth and forest loss. Environmental impact assessments for road projects can do a better job of assessing how new roads might exacerbate hunting and poaching pressure on tigers and their prey.</p><p>Funding agencies need to screen proposed road developments using these tiger-friendly criteria before planners finalize decisions on road design, siting and construction. Otherwise, it might be too late to influence road planning.</p><p>There are also opportunities to reduce the negative effects of existing roads on tigers. They include closing roads to vehicular traffic at night, decommissioning existing roads in areas with important tiger populations, adding road signs announcing the presence of tigers and constructing wildlife crossings to allow tigers and other wildlife to move freely through the landscape.</p><p>Roads will become more pervasive features in Asian ecosystems as these nations develop. In my view, now is the time to tackle this mounting challenge to Asian biodiversity, including tigers, through research, national and international collaborations and strong political leadership.</p>
By Charli Shield
After the novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, it didn't take long for conspiracy theorists to claim it was manufactured in a nearby lab.
Deforestation, habitat encroachment<p>As people move further into the territories of wild animals to clear forests, raise livestock, hunt and extract resources, we are increasingly exposed to the pathogens that normally never leave these places and the bodies they inhabit.</p><p>"We're getting closer and closer to wild animals," says Yan Xiang, professor of virology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, "and that brings us into contact with these viruses."</p><p>"As you increase human population density and increase encroachment onto natural habitats, not just by people but by our domesticated animals, you're increasing the rolls on the die," David Hayman, professor of infectious disease ecology at Massey University in New Zealand, told DW.</p><p>But, as well as increasing the likelihood of transfer, ecosystem disruption also has an impact on how many viruses exist in the wild and how they behave.</p>
Wildlife trade<p>So-called "wet markets" selling produce, meat and live animals provide another incubator for the emergence of infectious disease. Scientists <a href="https://www.cell.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0092-8674%2820%2930328-7" target="_blank">believe</a> there's a strong possibility SARS-CoV-2 emerged at a wet market in Wuhan, China.</p><p>Cramming stressed, sick animals into cages together is, in many ways, the "perfect setting" to incubate new pathogens, Spangenberg says, and "an excellent way to transfer diseases from one species to another." For that reason, many scientists, including Spangenberg, say the world needs, at the very least, to introduce strict regulations for live animal markets.</p><p>That's the message from Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the United Nations' biodiversity chief, who has called for a global ban on wildlife markets.</p><p>But as Mrema also pointed out, millions of people — particularly in low-income communities — rely on the food and income sources these markets provide.</p><p>That's part of what makes solutions to preventing disease outbreak complex, according to Hayman. Animal exploitation is one part of it, he says. But "poverty, access to jobs, how people are treated in remote areas, the way people engage with food" also contribute to conditions that lead to spillovers.</p>
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