We are besieged by a viral crossover from animals to humans that constitutes the worst infectious event since the flu outbreak of 1918. We were warned of the potential for this pandemic more than a decade ago. In one example, in the widely cited American journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews, professor Vincent Cheng and his colleagues from the University of Hong Kong elegantly described the history, epidemiology, potential for therapeutic intervention, and molecular virology of the SARS-coronavirus. We believe the object lesson for public health was explicitly stated:
“The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.”
Yet the awareness in 2007 of the imminent danger of the reemergence of such viruses did not translate to preventive action prior to 2020. One has to ask why.
Richard G. Moran
Richard Moran is a professor emeritus of cancer biology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.