COVID-19 from food safety and biosecurity perspective

News Release: 24-June-2020

This perspective by Dr. Premanandh Jagadeesan and Dr. Samara Bin Salem is published in The Open Food Science Journal, 2020

The researchers, in this perspective, discuss about the recent outbreak of COVID-19 throughout the world and its relation with food safety and biosecurity. This new type of pneumonia of unknown causes in the Hubei Province of China has hit public health and economy extremely hard. COVID-19 has already crossed other forms of flu and viral infections in morbidity and mortality. More than 100,000 confirmed cases had been reported, by March 6, 2020, with a mortality rate of around 3.5%. So far, more than 90 countries have reported confirmed cases of the COVID-19.

Initial epidemiological studies trace to the Huanan seafood market in China where almost half of the infected were found to be exposed to the market. Most patients had visited or come in close contact with the affected individuals from Wuhan. From previous experience with outbreaks of viral infections similar to COVID-19 (MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV) it is known that transmission through food is unlikely. Precautions are, nevertheless, necessary to avoid exposure to agents that can be the source of harboring the viral agents. Bats, for example, are recognized as natural reservoir hosts of Coronavirus. To date, over 200 novel coronaviruses have been identified in bats. And, for a fact, they are favorite indigenous protein culinary in many countries in Asia, Africa, and islands of Oceania. Also, hunting for consumption as bushmeat and medicine is common in these countries.

With the lack of clear knowledge about the source and spread of Coronavirus, it should be feasible to take precautionary measures regarding contact with potential hosts like bats. There must be check and strict measures on legal trade of likely carriers of Coronavirus and the illegal trade of bushmeat and other sources.

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