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A New Coronavirus Fear? Strain in Pigs Could Infect Humans

The novel coronavirus, the cause of COVID-19, has devastated people around the world. As we get used to the huge changes in our daily lives, we must take COVID-19 as a warning of what our future may hold.

Researchers still don’t know where this virus came from, but they believe it could be linked to humans eating animals. This type of virus is called “zoonotic”—a virus that can spread from an animal to a human.

Because of COVID-19, researchers are studying the possibility of other outbreaks. Another type of coronavirus has caused major trouble for the pig farming industry in recent years and could spread to people, says new research.

Like COVID-19, SARS and MERS (both serious respiratory infections) are caused by coronaviruses. Most likely, these viruses first lived in bats, who then spread them to animals used by humans—like farmed animals, camels, and donkeys—who then spread them to humans.

But the coronavirus found at pig farms may jump straight from pigs to humans.

Often, zoonotic viruses first spread from “mixing vessel animals,” like pigs, who can be infected by some of the same viruses that infect birds or humans. When two viruses infect a pig at once, the viruses sometimes mix to create a new virus. Because farmed animals are raised in crowded factories, viruses spread extremely fast.

The coronavirus in pigs that could jump to humans causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. Since 2016, the virus has infected pigs in China—and 90 percent of piglets five days old or younger die from it.

Humans and pigs at factory farms are constantly around each other, which makes the spread of the virus possible. Workers at factory farms do their jobs in cramped spaces and have to touch blood and manure. This makes them especially likely to get sick.

We can help protect animals from deadly viruses and ourselves from future outbreaks by choosing more plant-based foods and helping animal farmers switch to growing plants.

For tips on adding more plant-based meals to your routine, download our FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide today!