BY: DAVID WONG
After the outbreak of the new coronavirus in China, Tom Cotton, a US Republican senator issued a series of “ignorant remarks” claiming that the virus was a biological weapon leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan. He demanded that the U.S. government immediately ban China and that all Americans flee China.
Cotton probably did not expect that his sensational remarks would be quickly criticized by the American media. The Huffington Post reminds readers not to listen to Cotton’s nonsense.
According to the article of The Huffington Post, Cotton suggested the coronavirus could have come from a Chinese “super laboratory that works with the world’s most deadly pathogens,” boosting a debunked fringe theory circulating among tabloids and conservative media outlets. The Washington Times is one of them.
The Washington Post followed their, saying” that despite little public evidence, the theory has spread widely on social media, to conspiracy theory websites and in some international news outlets.
“It’s a ridiculous assertion,” said Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology and immunology at Harvard University in his reply to The Huffington Post .
“All signs point to a pathogen that has been circulating in animals and jumped to humans. It’s pretty common for these viruses and there’s no good reason for him to be saying something like that.”
On top of that, a handful of “industry gurus” have come out to dismiss such conspiracy theories as nonsense.
The Washington Post cited comments from five experts in the field, all of whom said the Wuhan lab’s claims about the virus were ignorant and gave readers a simple scientific explanation.
Richard Ebright, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University said:
“Based on the virus genome and properties, there is no indication whatsoever that it was an engineered virus,” Tim Trevan, the Maryland biosecurity specialist said: “The vast majority of new, nasty diseases come from nature.”
Milton Leitenberg, an expert on chemical weapons at the University of Maryland, said he and other analysts around the world had discussed the possibility that weapons development at the Wuhan lab could have led to the coronavirus outbreak in a private email chain but that no one had found convincing evidence to support the theory.
Hypothetically, a bioweapon would be designed to be highly targeted in its effects, whereas since its outbreak the coronavirus is already on track to become widespread in China and worldwide,” Elsa Kania, the researcher of at the center for a new American security said.
MIT professor Vipin Narang said: a good bioweapon “in theory has high lethality but low, not [high], communicability” and that spreading such ideas would be “incredibly irresponsible”.
In an interview with Fox news, Cotton again hyped up the Chinese epidemic, when some netizens mocked him on message boards as “much more dangerous than the new coronavirus”.
Some netizens saw right through his political agenda.
Experts are urging American officials to keep their mouths shut: the consequences are especially severe.
The outbreak has led to widespread rumors, especially on social media.
According to the huffington post, many infectious disease experts have urged patience while they assess the true dangers of the outbreak and cautioned against the kind of fearmongering that Cotton has embraced.
The outbreak has resulted in massive amounts of disinformation, viral social media falsehoods and online grifters attempting to cash in on the virus. Some conspiracy theorists have even promoted drinking dangerous bleach as a cure.
The virus has also led to anti-Chinese sentiment in numerous countries, prompting local officials and community organizations to denounce surging racism against Chinese communities.
“Misinformation around these outbreaks is definitely a problem,” said Dr. Tara Kirk Sell, senior scholar at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “When we undermine trust and get in the way of a public health response, those things can be really dangerous and really bad for trying to stop an outbreak.”
Health professionals and journalists have attempted to push back against the torrent of false information, debunking many of the myths around the virus and its origins.
International health expert said China has actually been fairly quick to address the virus and to alert international officials to the problem, according to health experts, and has as shared information on the virus that has helped epidemiologists study and track it.
International health organizations and US officials have largely praised China’s reaction to the crisis.
Mina, an associate professor of epidemiology and immunology at Harvard University:”They have done everything that you could hope for and is current-day standard practice that would be done in any other country,” Mina said.
Wuhan Institute of Virus Research: “I use my life to guarantee that it has nothing to do with the laboratory”
Ms Shi Zhengli, the researcher of the Institute, said in her WeChat friends circule that the new coronavirus of 2019 is the punishment of uncivilized living habits given to human beings by nature. I will guarantee with my life that it has nothing to do with the laboratory. She advised those who believe and spread rumors to shut up.
Her longtime collaborator, disease ecologist Peter Daszak of the EcoHealth Alliance, dismissed Ebright’s conjecture. “Every time there’s an emerging disease, a new virus, the same story comes out: This is a spillover or the release of an agent or a bioengineered virus,” Daszak says. “It’s just a shame.”