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In December 2019, a new coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China. The virus, named SARS-CoV-2, causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The virus quickly spread to multiple countries. By March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Since then, daily life has changed for people around the world. Practices such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and working from home have become the norm.

As a result, many people want to know where the virus came from, and some have looked for answers online. However, there are several myths circulating around the Internet. One popular rumor is that the new coronavirus originated from people eating “bat soup” in China.

This is false. Bat soup consumption didn’t cause the COVID-19 pandemic. The exact source of the virus is still unknown.

Read on to learn about the bat soup rumor and what researchers know so far.

Since ancient times, people all over the world have eaten bats. Bats have also been used in traditional medicine.

Bat meat consumption is most common in parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. For example, in southern China, bat meat is served at restaurants. In the Republic of Palau and Marianna Islands, bat soup is considered a delicacy.

Depending on the dish, bat soup might include ingredients like coconut milk, vegetables, and spices. The entire bat is often used.

But in recent decades, bats have been the source of diseases which can spread to humans. This is related to several factors, such as:

  • increased urbanization, causing bats to interact with livestock or people
  • increased consumption of bats and other exotic animals
  • increased trade of bats in markets, where they may be caged near other wild animals

These circumstances have changed their interactions with humans and also changed their viruses.

In turn, many people believe that the new coronavirus came from bat meat or bat soup. But this is a rumor. There’s no evidence that the new coronavirus came from bat soup consumption.

Where did the bat soup rumor originate?

When COVID-19 was first identified in late 2019, a video of a woman eating bat soup went viral. This sparked rumors that bat soup consumption in China caused the outbreak. But according to the BBC, this isn’t true.

The video wasn’t filmed in Wuhan, let alone in China. It was taken in the Republic of Palau, a country in the western Pacific Ocean. The woman in the video was Mengyun Wang, a travel show host. She shot the video to feature the local people’s food.

Additionally, the clip was filmed in 2016. This was long before the first COVID-19 cases were diagnosed.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They can affect many different mammals, including:

  • bats
  • cats
  • camels
  • cattle

Some types of coronaviruses also affect humans. But most of these viruses cause mild upper-respiratory illnesses.

It’s rare for animal coronaviruses to spread to people. However, this has occurred with the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

It’s been confirmed that the outbreak stemmed from a wholesale meat market in Wuhan. The virus was found in the area where live animals were kept, according to a 2020 article from the journal Microbiology Australia.

This doesn’t mean that the virus began in the market, though. It only means the market played a role in spreading the virus. In fact, a 2020 study in the Lancet found that 14 of the first 41 people confirmed to have COVID-19 didn’t visit the market. This suggests there are other sources.

According to a study shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s possible that bats with the new coronavirus were introduced to the market. This might have allowed recombination, or viruses exchanging genetic material to create a new virus.

Therefore, bats may have played a role in the COVID-19 outbreak. But it likely wasn’t through the consumption of bat soup. As of December 2020, the exact source of the new coronavirus hasn’t been confirmed. The WHO is developing a plan to track the source.

In addition to COVID-19, bats can spread other diseases that infect humans. This includes:

Here’s how the 2019 coronavirus spreads:

Person-to-person contact

The novel coronavirus commonly spreads when someone comes into contact with a person who has the virus. It’s mainly spread through their respiratory droplets.

These droplets, which may contain the virus, are produced when the person:

  • coughs
  • sneezes
  • sings
  • talks
  • breathes

If the droplets land on your nose or mouth or if you inhale the droplets, the virus can enter your body. This is more likely if people are within six feet of each other.

Airborne transmission

Sometimes, respiratory droplets containing the virus may linger in the air.

In this scenario, a person who enters the space might contract the virus, even after the original person with the virus leaves. The virus may also spread to people more than six feet away.

This depends on many factors, including how long the person with the infection stays in the space and the room’s ventilation.

Still, the virus is more likely to spread through person-to-person contact than airborne transmission.

Contact with contaminated surfaces

Less commonly, the virus may spread via touching contaminated surfaces.

When droplets are released into the air, they eventually land on a surface. If you touch the surface then your eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus might enter your body.

This method is even less common than airborne transmission. But it’s still a good idea to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching other objects.

The rumors about bat soup and COVID-19 are false. The myth started when a video of a woman eating bat soup went viral. However, the video was taken in 2016 and filmed in Palau, a country in the Pacific Ocean.

Bats may have played a role in the COVID-19 pandemic, but bat soup wasn’t the direct cause. Researchers are still looking for the exact source.