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Disease Experts Are Puzzling Over Coronavirus Uncanny Pathogen

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Two days before the Chinese New Year, when families across the country gather and celebrate, traders from the Huanan fish market in central China's 11 million-dollar city of Wuhan should be doing business of the year.

If everything were, as usual, they would now sell abundant quantities of fish, seafood and every conceivable type of meat for which the city market is famous.

Beef and pork, rabbits and donkeys are joined by fox and crocodile, Chinese giant salamander, snake, badger, rat, camel. And the list is not yet complete.

Some wild animals are sold alive - and certainly illegally. Eating rare meat is a tradition in China. But at the start of the year of the rat, nothing is normal in Wuhan.

The police cordoned off the two-storey building of the market with a blue and white ribbon. Behind it, through heavy lattice gates, corridors can be seen that lead into the interior: tiled floors, sewage channels, the stands are lined up on the left and right.

Her blue shutters are down, no trace of life. Water is bubbling behind a window in an otherwise empty fish tank.

The market is most likely the epicentre of a new plague that is now keeping the world in suspense. It must have happened here in December.

A wild animal was for sale; it carried a virus that managed to infect a human. It was the coronavirus "2019-nCoV" - the preliminary name.

Scientists have found evidence that a snake was hoarding the virus; the Chinese authorities count badgers and rats as suspects.


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