No, the virus that causes COVID-19 did not already exist
The virus that causes Covid-19 already existed
Inaccurate (no factual basis; unacceptable margin of error)
Several Internet publications circulating since the beginning of the pandemic suggest that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been around for many years. They support their claims with photos showing animal vaccines against the coronavirus (bovine, canine) in the United States. These publications are inaccurate: COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a new variation of an existing virus, for which there is no human nor animal vaccine.
Coronaviruses: a family of viruses in humans and animals
There are several kinds of coronaviruses in humans, as reported by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). Of the coronavirus family, four are common viruses that cause diseases such as the common cold and have been identified since the 1960s. A fifth was discovered in 2002 (SARS-CoV) and caused the SARS outbreak in 2003; a sixth was discovered in 2012 (MERS-CoV) and has since been identified in 27 countries. The latter two viruses have a much higher mortality rate than the first four.
The seventh virus in the coronavirus family is the one that causes COVID-19, a new coronavirus identified, as its name suggests, in 2019. Its genetic code most closely resembles the coronavirus that caused SARS, hence its name SARS-CoV-2.
The Public Health Agency of Canada identified three groups of coronaviruses in animals many decades ago. These viruses cause a range of chronic and acute diseases in animals, such as respiratory, gastroenteric and neurological diseases.
There is no vaccine against COVID-19
Many vaccines are available to immunize animals against coronaviruses and they have been circulating for a long time, according to the Boehringer-Ingelheim Institute, an animal health organization founded in Germany in 1851 and now based in Canada. This explains the photo used on the Internet. From a scientific and health point of view, vaccines that exist to treat different types of coronaviruses or diseases in animals cannot be used to treat humans.
After the SARS epidemic in 2003, work started on the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV, the virus that causes SARS. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, these few vaccines were not marketed because they did not meet safety standards for use in humans.
In addition, there is no human or animal vaccine against COVID-19 because it takes several years to develop a vaccine and the virus that causes COVID-19 was identified only 6 months ago. However, the World Health Organization is currently coordinating global efforts to develop human vaccines against COVID-19.
Social network publications that use images of animal vaccines against common and long-known coronaviruses to prove that COVID-19 disease already existed, are inaccurate and misleading. Coronaviruses are a family of human and animal viruses that have been around for more than 50 years. Vaccines can treat some of these coronaviruses in animals. But the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is a new coronavirus for which there is currently no vaccine, animal or human.
What is the origin of COVID-19?
The first case of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was identified in China in December 2019, according to WHO. The zoonotic (animal) source of the virus is still unknown, but the genetic sequence of the new virus is similar to that of the virus that caused SARS in 2003 and the origin of this virus has been traced to a type of bat. This suggests that the COVID-19 virus may have originated from these same bats. However, further studies are needed to reach a firm conclusion.
Why do we see misleading associations on social networks?
According to the journal Psychology Today, the explanation is simple. In an effort to better manage our environment and our daily lives, our brain is equipped with a function that helps it establish associations and patterns. When we face the unknown and feel more anxious, our brain tends to create illusory associations, leading us to believe such associations when presented to us.
This type of association is commonly used by people who wish to promote conspiracy theories. In times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, these movements take advantage of the more vulnerable state of the population to promote unsubstantiated theories and erode trust in political and health authorities. Some of these theories are designed to protect the population. But in both cases, misleading associations and conspiracy theories increase the population's resistance to the directives of these authorities - which runs counter to the protection of citizens.
It is therefore important to ensure the truthfulness and legitimacy of an association before believing or sharing it. This can be done by doing a quick search on the Internet, or by consulting health and scientific sources directly.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/types.html
Boehringer-Ingelheim Institute : https://www.boehringer-ingelheim.ca/en/covid19-landing-page/covid-19/our-response-covid-19-canada
Public Health Agency of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/emerging-respiratory-pathogens/coronavirus-animals.html
The virus that causes Covid-19 already existed
June 12, 2020
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