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WHO Report: Animals Most Likely Source of Coronavirus


In this Feb. 9, 2021, file photo, Peter Ben Embarek of the World Health Organization team holds up a chart showing pathways of transmission of the virus during a joint news conference at the end of the WHO mission in Wuhan. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
WHO Report: Animals Most Likely Source of Coronavirus
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A World Health Organization (WHO) report has found that the new coronavirus likely started in bats before being passed on to humans through another animal.

The report is based on a study carried out jointly between the WHO and China. The Associated Press says it received a copy of the report from a WHO-member country. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed that he had received the report. He said it would be officially presented Tuesday.

The report is being closely watched by health officials across the world who are seeking answers about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The study could help scientists prevent future outbreaks.

The report is largely based on a visit last month by a WHO team of international experts to the Chinese city of Wuhan. The earliest known cases of the coronavirus were identified in Wuhan.

FILE - Members of the World Health Organization team including Peter Daszak, left, Ken Maeda, right, and Vladimir Dedkov, second right, prepare to leave for field visits from their hotel in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province.
FILE - Members of the World Health Organization team including Peter Daszak, left, Ken Maeda, right, and Vladimir Dedkov, second right, prepare to leave for field visits from their hotel in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province.

AP says the report listed the four most likely sources of the coronavirus. Transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal was very likely, it said. The researchers said a direct spread from bats to humans was also possible.

The study found that virus spread to humans from food shipments was possible, but not likely. And the report said the possibility that the coronavirus originated from a leak at a laboratory was “extremely unlikely.”

The researchers proposed further study into all of the possibilities except for the lab leak theory.

Officials from former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration had suggested -- without offering evidence -- that the virus may have escaped from a government research laboratory in Wuhan. But most health experts have said it is unlikely the new coronavirus came from a lab or was engineered by humans.

Marion Koopmans, right, and Peter Ben Embarek, center, of the World Health Organization team say farewell to their Chinese counterpart Liang Wannian, left, after a WHO-China Joint Study Press Conference held at the end of the WHO mission in Wuhan, China,
Marion Koopmans, right, and Peter Ben Embarek, center, of the World Health Organization team say farewell to their Chinese counterpart Liang Wannian, left, after a WHO-China Joint Study Press Conference held at the end of the WHO mission in Wuhan, China,

Bats are known to carry coronaviruses and scientists have found the closest relative of the new coronavirus in bats in China. However, the WHO report says “the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and (the coronavirus) is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link.”

For example, the study says highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, another kind of mammal found in Africa and Asia.

Repeated delays in the report’s release raised questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to influence the findings. China’s government is concerned the research could draw attention to how it dealt with the virus and possibly open it up to international criticism or legal action. Chinese officials have suggested the virus could have originated in another country.

Plainclothes security personnel stand outside the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention before the World Health Organization team arrive to make a field visit in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Ng Han G
Plainclothes security personnel stand outside the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention before the World Health Organization team arrive to make a field visit in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Ng Han G

An AP investigation earlier this year found that China was strongly controlling all coronavirus-related research and banned researchers from speaking to the media.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about the report during an appearance Sunday on CNN television. “We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report,” he said.

China rejected that criticism on Monday. A foreign ministry spokesperson said: “The U.S. has been speaking out on the report. By doing this, isn’t the U.S. trying to exert political pressure on the members of the WHO expert group?”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

originn. the cause of something or where something begins or comes from

source – v. where something comes from

transmit – v. to cause a virus, disease, etc. to be given to others

relative – v. considered in relation to something else

evolution – n. a gradual process of change and development

decade – n. a period of ten years

mammal – n. a kind of animal that feeds milk to its young and that usually has hair or fur covering most of its skin

exert – adj. to use something such as authority, power or influence, in order to make something happen

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