Leading scholars on Asia and public health from around the nation came together to debunk misinformation about China and origins of the coronavirus in the first segment of a four part series “Teaching China in the Age of COVID-19.”

Thursday, Oct. 1 was the first of the free, four-part series in which scholars Anita Sego and Michelle King discussed the origins of the coronavirus and false information about China that have been across the media in the last few months.

Anita Sego of the UCA department of health sciences began the hour-long session by discussing some of the essential information about the coronavirus.

Sego said that COVID-19 is believed to have zoonotic origins, meaning it is “a disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals.”

COVID-19 has close genetic similarity to bat coronaviruses, suggesting it emerged from a bat-borne virus, Sego said.

Michelle King of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spoke about misinformation in the media, such as the claim that China is at fault due to their wet markets thatsell raw bat meat.

King said that American perception of Chinese cuisine is directly tied to the political relationship between the two nations. When former President Nixon created a harmonious relationship with China in the 1970s, many Americans became interested in their food. But, now that relations between China and the United States are not as harmonious, claims about what Chinese people eat has caused the coronavirus to take root in national media, King said.

However, King said only the wealthy in China eat bat meat and it is not as common as the media makes it out to be.

King also examined an NPR article that covered the wet markets in China and showed images of bat meat being sold. King pointed out that the pictures were taken in Indonesia, which is not part of China.

“COVID-19 is the abbreviation for coronavirus disease 2019. ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus’ and ‘D’ for 'disease,’” Sego said.

While there are many types of human coronaviruses, COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a “novel [new] coronavirus,” Sego said.

Sego also discussed common terminology associated with the coronavirus, such as “comorbidity,” “R number,” and “super spreader.”

Sego said that there are still many unknown aspects of the coronavirus such as how the virus spreads, whether immunity can be built through infection or vaccination and whether the virus is an acute or chronic disease.

Studies show that the coronavirus is mostly understood to spread through large respiratory droplets, but transmission through aerosols have also been implicated, Sego said.

Challenges that have risen in response to COVID-19 within the United States include challenges to the political climate, pressure on the CDC, inventory systems, resistance to wearing masks and access to testing, Sego said.

The remaining three segments of the “Teaching China in the Age of COVID-19” series will cover the response to the virus within China, its impact on Asian-American communities and the future of the United States-China relations.

These segments will be held over zoom on each Thursday in October. To access the zoom link, please register and fill out a form at https://forms.gle/zi1wpsxkMUg517WJ7.

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