The science of making the most of a rumor without confirming it

The following is a Q & A between a reporter of Pengpai News (literally: “Surge”, aka “The Paper”) from Shanghai, and Shi Yi, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology, at a regular press conference held by the State Council’s Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism at Guo’erzhao Guest House in Beijing, on Thursday afternoon local time.

State Council info,
click photo for source

Main link: State Council transcript

Pengpai News reporter [“The Paper”, Shanghai]:
Recently, foreign media have reported that the American military has restarted the biochemical base at Fort Derrick in Maryland. After the news, obtained by many people there, later began to emerge, America believes that there is a lot of evidence that the cause for the emergency closure of Fort Derrick biochemcial base last year in August was absolutely fishy, and it is believed that said virus may be the origin of the new coronavirus, and may also have created the autum-winter influenza epidemic. After that, said virus [is said to have] occured in China again, as a variation of the virus, because of US military taking part in the Wuhan 2019 Military World Games. May I ask how the experts view this issue? Thank you.

[澎湃新闻记者]近期,有境外媒体报道美军重启为马里兰州的德特里克堡生化研究基地,那里很多民众得到消息以后开始外逃,美国认为有多个证据表明,德特里克堡生化研究基地去年8月被紧急关闭的原因十分蹊跷,认为该疾病可能是新冠病毒的源头,并在美国造成秋冬季节流感大流行,之后病毒通过参加武汉军人运动员美国军人在中国发生变异后再次暴发,请问台上专家如何看待这个问题?谢谢。2020-04-23 15:34:02

Shi Yi:
Thank you for your question. Actually, we are have noticed the related information of this idea on the internet, too, about Americans suspecting that Fort Derrick biochemical base may be the source of the new coronavirus. There hasn’t been a public American response, and we have no way of judging this. Investigating the origins of a virus science in itself, whose main objective is to avoid another outbreak of similar epidemic situations, causing harm to humankind. Currently, scientists from all countries of the world are researching the origins of the virus, and they have put forward numerous learned points of views and hypothesis and guesses. Chinese scientists have also carried out conscientious relevant research, so as to find the origins of the new coronavirus as soon as possible, with a focus on good prevention and control, and to provide a scientific basis.

[施一]谢谢这位记者的提问。其实,我们注意到互联网上相关信息,美国有人怀疑德特里克堡生化研究基地可能是新冠病毒来源的说法,美国方面对此没有公开回应,我们无从做出判断。病毒溯源本身是科学问题,其主要目的是防止再次发生同类疫情对人类社会造成危害。目前,世界各国科学家都在开展病毒源头的研究,对新冠病毒的来源提出了许多学术观点及假设、猜想。中国科学家目前也在认真开展相关研究,为早日找到新冠病毒的起源,有针对性的做好防控,提供科学依据。

Still Shi Yi:
As seen from the process of tracing the origins of tracing a virus, this is a scientific problem that requires a relatively long time and comes with uncertainties. It will take quite a chain of biological information and epidemiological evidence put together, confirming each other, to really complete this task. Many viral diseases in human history, such as AIDS, SARS etc. have required decade-long searches for their origins, but although there has been progress, all results are speculative, without a final answer, research is still continuing. The current new corona pneumonia is wreaking havoc on the entire world, and hopefully, all countries of the world will focus their energy and attention on the major work of prevention and control. The scientific issue of tracing the origins of the virus will require deep research by scientists from all countries. Thank you.

从病毒溯源的科学研究全过程来看,这是一项科学难题,需要较长时间而且存在不确定性,需要将众多生物学信息和流行病学证据汇聚成相互印证的证据链,才能真正完成任务。人类历史上很多疾病比如艾滋病、SARS等,对其源头的探索历经十几年甚至几十年的研究,虽然取得了进展,但研究结果仅是推测,尚未得出最终的答案,研究工作至今仍在继续。当前新冠肺炎疫情正在全球肆虐,希望世界各国把精力和关注点集中放在疫情防控重点工作上,病毒溯源这一科学难题需要各国科学家深入研究。谢谢。2020-04-23 15:34:29

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