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ECDC In Denial of Novel Beta Coronavirus Human Transmission
Recombinomics Commentary 22:30
November 27, 2012

ECDC updated risk assessment concludes that in the absence of evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission outside of household settings, the current facts still point towards a hypothesis of a zoonotic or environmental source with occasional transmission to exposed humans.

The above comments from the abstract of the European Center for Disease Control risk assessment for the novel betacornavirus November 26 report is yet another example of a focus on an animal origin of a disease transmitting in humans.  It contains that all too familial of “no evidence of” for a disease that is new, novel, and has had extremely limited testing.

WHO has recommended more frequent and widespread testing due in part to a familial cluster that included two confirmed and two probable cases.  Two of the family members died after renal failure and the two surviving members had similar symptoms seen in other confirmed cases.  The ECDC did imply that some additional testing may be warranted, but noted that the number of undiagnosed pneumonia cases in the European Union was large, and widespread testing would be burdensome.

The discussion of the cluster was limited.  The probable case who tested negative was not mentioned, which was also true of the renal failure in the father (70M) and the multi-organ failure in his son.  Renal failure was also reported for the first two confirmed cases from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  Both of the earlier confirmed cases had traveled to Mecca prior to disease onset.

The ECDC report implied that the recent cases were due to November infections, while media reports indicated all were in October or earlier.  The ECDC report made no mention of the role of the Hajj in the spread of the virus (the first two confirmed cases travelled to Mecca prior to symptoms in Jeddah and Doha), and instead maintained its hypothesis of a zoonotic infection, which has no scientific basis.  Full sequences from the first two cases are public, and the novel betacornavirus has not been reported in any animal host, in spite of aggressive testing after the SARS CoV outbreak in 2003.

The ECDC report is yet another example for an agency that is in state of denial with regard to human transmission of a novel human pathogen.

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