The animal eaten in China that may have sparked deadly coronavirus

WARNING – DISTURBING CONTENT: There are fears the new strain of coronavirus that has now killed 25 people may have been caused by bats carrying the deadly virus being eaten by Chinese diners.

While the responsible species of animal for the coronavirus has yet to be confirmed, scientists in China said bats carry the virus and the mammal is one of the leading potential causes of the latest strain, Business Insider reported.

The origin of the strain, which has infected 830 people, is understood to be at Huanan Seafood Market which was closed down on January 1.

The now closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale market. Source: Getty
A traditional Chinese wet market regularly sells an array of foods and meats. Pictured is a market in Guangxi's capital Nanning. Source: Getty

While the market’s name indicates only seafood is sold at the premises, it has been confirmed other animals were illegally sold there.

While it is not clear if bats were sold at the market, bats may have infected other animals on sale at the market including rats, hedgehogs and snakes.

Wuhan authorities moved on Wednesday to ban the sale of live animals at other wet markets in the city with police on the ground enforcing the rule, the BBC reported.

The first fatality from the latest strain was reportedly known to shop at the market.

In Hubei the consumption of bat by Chinese diners is common and is a known delicacy. Unconfirmed footage that has spread across Chinese social media shows a woman eating a cooked bat at a restaurant.

The woman eating the bat at what is believed to be a Wuhan restaurant. Source: Douyin

In the video a man tells the woman to eat the meat of the bat and not its wing.

The clip is understood to be in the city of Wuhan, where the majority of the confirmed deaths from the strain have been.

Another video shared to Twitter shows a cooked bat sitting in a bowl of soup.

Christian Walzer, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s health program, said Chinese governments need to act on the dangers posed by the consumption of certain animals.

“Governments must recognise the global public health threats of zoonotic diseases,” he said in a statement.

“It is time to close live animal markets that trade in wildlife, strengthen efforts to combat trafficking of wild animals, and work to change dangerous wildlife consumption behaviours, especially in cities.”

Bats are believed to be the original cause of SARS with the disease spread from a wet market in Guangdong in China’s south. The virus resulted in the death of 774 people.

Health officials fear the transmission rate could accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.

Scrambling to contain the outbreak, the local government in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in Hubei province, suspended most transport on Thursday, including outgoing flights, and people were told not to leave.

Hours later, neighbouring Huanggang, a city of about seven million people, announced similar measures.

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