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Probably More Than You Ever Wanted to Hear about ‘Bat Soup’ . . .

(Kiyoshi Ota/Reuters)

This isn’t the most important angle in the discussion of tracing the origin of the coronavirus, but there’s one other point worth considering about the theory that COVID-19 began when “Patient Zero” consumed bat or pangolin meat at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China.

Since at least the third week of January, there’s been this perception that COVID-19 started when someone had “bat soup.”

Shortly after the first reports that COVID-19, social media tracked down videos of people eating bats, both in broth and cooked and held with chopsticks. (Unpleasant images and video at that link.) It is worth noting that the videos circulating on social media weren’t from Wuhan and in some cases weren’t even from China.

It’s worth keeping in mind that cooking usually kills viruses in meat and animal tissue — that’s one of the reasons human beings traditionally cook their food. While it’s certainly possible that someone prepared a bat for a meal and undercooked it, research indicates that the related coronavirus that causes SARS is killed at temperatures anywhere from 132 degrees Fahrenheit to 149 degrees Fahrenheit. Most ovens cook at least 225 degrees Fahrenheit. You would probably have to really undercook a bat to leave the virus intact in the meat. Then again, it’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of ovens or cooking methods are being used in wet markets, and whether they reach a sufficient temperature.

That said, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.” If somebody with the coronavirus sneezed on your sushi or steak tartare, you probably would be in trouble. Otherwise, you’re probably fine. But somebody sneezing on your food is a bad idea for lots and lots of reasons beyond COVID-19.

Sure, human beings eat bats. But how many human beings eat raw or severely undercooked bats?

Meanwhile, past research at the University of California-Berkeley finds that bats “shed even more virus in their saliva, urine and feces” when they are stressed. Like, say, when they’re being held in captivity in a lab for research.

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