The Washington Post

Prevent pandemics


I disagreed with the March 3 editorial “China owes the world answers on how covid began” that claimed “only by understand­ing how the pandemic started can the world begin to prepare for the next one.”

Understand­ing how the pandemic began in China would add just one single data point to our already deep understand­ing on how pandemics begin. We already have plenty of evidence of the zoonotic origin of a number of viruses including Ebola, HIV, avian influenza, Marburg and rabies. We already know that poorly controlled wet markets around the world are a source of disease. We also know that safety in some labs has been problemati­c. There have been numerous leaks in many countries. And, as of 2021, there were 60 biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) labs in operation, planned or under constructi­on in 23 countries.

We already know there is unclear specificat­ion of what constitute­s “gain-offunction” research, which is a method with huge potential benefits but also considerab­le risks. And we have mountains of evidence on how best to respond to pandemics such as covid-19 through social means and vaccines.

Efforts would be better served by launching an internatio­nally funded program to control or close wet markets, improve lab security and certificat­ion, and educate about risks and responses. Understand­ing the China case would provide just a single data point when we already know enough to start to combat and prevent future pandemics.

Ridley Nelson, Great Falls

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