Little-known mammal, pangolin, suspected coronavirus link to humans

Photo credit Anindira Kintara / Opn Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

With the death toll in mainland China from coronavirus surpassing 1,000 people, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson did a segment focusing on all the speculation about the deadly virus and how it is contracted.

Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, medical director of CityMD, an urgent care concept, appeared on Monday’s episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to speak about the virus, to include discussing the discovery of a mammal that may be involved.

While very little is know, there are reports that a scaly, ant-eating mammal called a pangolin may be an intermediate host of the coronavirus, responsible for passing it to humans.

Not well known in the U.S., the pangolin is imported in massive numbers to Chinese markets for food and medicine, according to the New York Times.

The newspaper reported that the market in pangolins is so large that “they are said to be the most trafficked mammals on the planet” — there are four Asian species, and all are critically endangered.

Obviously, being a positivist identified as a viral host would significantly impact trade in the animals.

“It’s a challenge understanding the spectrum of this virus because there are so many unknowns,” Nesheiwat told Carlson. “So many questions still unanswered and we’re still learning a lot about this virus. For example, can you spread it if you are asymptomatic? We just saw there was a newborn baby 30 hours old and got it from his mom, so we know it can be spread asymptomatic. We know it can be spread from maternal-fetal transmission, we know from coughing and sneezing, human to human.”

“But now we believe there might be a new animal involved called a pangolin,” she explained. “We understood that they probably — the virus probably is from bats, but we also feel bats contaminated this new creature, kind of looks like an armadillo.”

The doctor said the Chinese use their scales for medicinal purposes, and that their meat is also used.

“It’s been used for many, many years,” Nesheiwat added. “They are an endangered species, but when I believe they may be an intermediary in transmitting the virus to humans.”

Carlson chimed in to say, “If you eat animals like that, it’s not surprising that bad things happen.”

The Fox News host also asked about speculation that the Chines government created the coronavirus.

“No, I think this virus has existed,” Nesheiwat replied. “There have been studies and data that show this actually existed for many, many years, it’s just that the virus has mutated, it’s changed. The DNA has changed.”

Stressing that there are still a lot of unknown answers, the doctor said that the more information that we have, the more we are able to better understand the virus.

She also touched on “a little bit of hesitation” from Chinese authorities in accepting help from outside.

“Let us in. Let us help. What are you hiding?” Nesheiwat asked. “Let us be there to help discover new treatments, new medications. We are sending medicine from the U.S. to China, HIV medicines, medicines called remdesivir, which was used to treat SARS and Ebola, to see if these medications can help tackle the virus in China.”

Reiterating that scientists suspect the virus originated from bats, she said there was still much to learn about the virus.

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Tom Tillison

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