WUHAN, China — A World Health Organization team has concluded that the coronavirus most likely jumped to humans from an animal.
WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek announced that assessment Tuesday at the end of a visit by a WHO team that is investigating the possible origins of the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The first cases were discovered in Wuhan in December 2019. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has collected extensive virus samples, leading to allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has strongly rejected that possibility.
The WHO team is intended to be an initial step delving into the origins of the virus, which is believed to have originated in bats before being passed to humans through another species of wild animal, such as a pangolin or bamboo rat, which is considered an exotic delicacy by some in China.
The pandemic has killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide. China has reported more than 100,000 confirmed cases and 4,822 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world with more than 465,000 deaths.