COVID-19 Report - 16

Suspected host species:
Horseshoe bats (reservoir), Himalayan palm
civets and raccoon dogs (intermediate) 31

Number of deaths:


In 2002, the SARS-CoV virus spread from an animal
host and infected humans in the Guangdong province of
southern China.34 The virus rapidly spread to 26 countries
and resulted in more than 8,000 cases in 2003. SARS, the
disease caused by this virus, was highly fatal. Over 700
people around the world died from the disease, almost 9 per
cent of infected cases.
Although the evidence is not conclusive, the initial disease
outbreak is likely attributed to human contact with
infected palm civets and raccoon dogs in a wildlife market
in Guangdong province. This was substantiated by the
discovery of SARS-like viruses in these animals in Chinese
wildlife markets after the initial outbreak.35 Researchers
also found that several of the early SARS patients in
Guangdong were involved in selling or preparing wildlife for
consumption, likely increasing their exposure to the virus.36
Additionally, patient case data clearly implicates civets in
directly transmitting SARS-CoV to humans. In particular,
two cases in 2003 were directly linked to a restaurant in
Guangzhou where six SARS-CoV-positive civets were housed
in cages.37 Although researchers cannot be certain that the
initial transmission from animals to humans took place
in a wildlife market, it is likely that wildlife markets and
restaurants were central to the spread of SARS.
Studies have also linked the SARS outbreak with the illegal
wildlife trade in small carnivorous mammals through
unregulated handling practices. A significant proportion of
the animals sold in wildlife markets enter China through a
regional network of legal and illegal wildlife trade. Although
it is difficult to pinpoint the true extent of the illegal wildlife
trade in this region in the early 2000s, it is known that live
species including turtles, civets and other small carnivores
were exported to Chinese wildlife markets from Viet Nam
and Lao PDR.38 Some researchers therefore suggest that
an infected host species was imported from a neighbouring
country, potentially transmitting the virus to other wild
animals during transportation. Although there is no
definitive evidence, this explanation is plausible given that
the regional wildlife trade system involved a high level of
contact between species that would not usually have contact
in their native habitats.39
Estimates of the total macroeconomic impact vary. However,
the World Bank estimates that the global economic impact
was US$41.5 billion, or around US$4 million per case.40
The SARS pandemic led to an estimated GDP decrease of 1
per cent in China and 0.5 per cent in Southeast Asia, due to
costs associated with healthcare spending, business closures,
reductions in manufacturing, and the contraction of the
tourism industry.41



Estimated economic impact:




COVID-19 Report

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of COVID-19 Report

COVID-19 Report - 1
COVID-19 Report - 2
COVID-19 Report - Contents
COVID-19 Report - 4
COVID-19 Report - 5
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