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Many conspiracy theories have arisen because of the coronavirus, but the most likely cause of the virus is a natural source.

With products flying off shelves and civilians being encouraged to practice social distancing, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is beginning to feel like an apocalypse. With the swift rise in cases around the globe, questions of the origins of the virus have arisen. As new information is still being released, it’s difficult to determine how the virus began. 

For some government officials, the pandemic has led to a blame game of who’s responsible for spreading the virus. Some American conservatives, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have used the term “Wuhan virus” to refer to the coronavirus. These comments garnered backlash from the public, as some argued that they were stigmatizing the Chinese and promoting unnecessary discrimination. The Chinese government has, in turn, been critical of the American commentary on the pathogen. Zhao Linjian, a ministry spokesman from China, has taken to Twitter to imply that the U.S. Army started the coronavirus. According to The New York Times, this claim isn’t substantiated by any scientific evidence

Both sides argue that the virus could have started as a bioweapon to cause harm to populations. Scientists, however, assert that other pathogens could have been much more effective at wiping out large amounts of people quickly. Currently, the average death rate of the coronavirus is 3%, and this statistic varies from country to country. Statistics also show that age highly affects the death rate of the virus. For people over 80, the death rate is 14.8%, while the death rate for people under 40 is 0.2% or less. 

The risk that the virus imposes on the elderly poses another theory: The Chinese government introduced the virus as a means of population control. China implemented a one-child policy in 1979. The policy has now been deemed a failure, as it contributed to the aging crisis. In 2015, 16.1% of China’s population was over 60, according to Xinhuanet. By diminishing the younger population, the burden to care for the elderly is growing. Nursing homes, care facilities and support systems for the elderly in China are unable to keep up with the rising demand. Because the virus disproportionately affects those over 60, it gives some validity to the theory that the virus is being used as population control. Users on Reddit share the theory that China released the virus to attempt to save the economy by selectively reducing the elder population. This theory hasn’t been publicly supported by medical professionals or biologists but is merely a product of speculation.

Others believe that the virus was originally contracted through the consumption of animal products at a food market in Wuhan. This theory classifies COVID-19 as a zoonotic virus, which means it’s transmitted from animals to humans, according to Navy Times. This is more likely, as there’s DNA evidence that poses a possible link to bats. Researchers have yet to confirm the exact species. The World Health Organization (WHO) is updating their database daily with new findings. If the virus is zoonotic, it’s likely that more research will support this claim. 

Because of the censorship in China, it’s hard for Americans to have full clarity on the functioning of healthcare and government there. The New York Times reports that a doctor from China, Li Wenliang, tried to warn others about the dangers of the coronavirus in an online chat, but his actions were deemed illegal by the Chinese government. Dr. Li has since died from the coronavirus. The media frenzy surrounding the pandemic has led to a spread of misinformation around the globe. 

People are best advised to look to scientists and researchers for the most accurate information on the virus. While theories about the coronavirus being implemented as a bioweapon pose some believable aspects, the grave effects of the virus on all countries likely suggest that it originated from a natural source. 

Diana Witt is a sophomore theatre and media arts and design double major. Contact Diana at wittdr@dukes.jmu.edu.