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Why Blame Bat Soup on the Rise of the Wuhan Epidemic?

Bat soup has been unjustifiably blamed as one of the major causes of the rise of the new novel strain coronavirus that reportedly originated in a Wuhan market selling various animals and insects for food consumption.

Bat soup has been targeted as one of the culprits that started nCoV and videos of a Chinese woman having a sumptuous meal of the exotic delicacy made it more worse. The trending video of the Chinese woman enjoying her bat soup is being used as case report study and evidence that the virus originated from eating the unusual delicacy. But new reports said that the video didn’t even film or was recorded in China. Updates that is going around in the internet are confirming that the Chinese woman, who is a vlogger, filmed the video in Palau – where bat soup is one of the place’s popular dish.

But what really is the bat soup? Is bat soup that unhealthy to eat?

I did some diggings and I found out that even famous YouTube channels and celebrities have already tried the controversial bat soup even before the outbreak was reported in December 2019.

YouTube vlogger Sonny Side of The Best Ever Food Review Show gamely ate a bowl of bat soup in one of his visit in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

It has a unique texture. It’s gelatenous, bouncy, chewy, and has a funny tanginess on it,” said Sonny while munching a bat’s thigh.

Sonny has traveled in Asia and some parts of the world and has tried almost every exotic and rare delicacies in every places he visited. I watched his video where he tried a roasted giant turkey and even I’m not a fan of turkey meat, just by watching the video will make you crave for it.

Even our Pinoy boy Mikey Bustos had his own share with the delicacy. In his visit to Palau, he mentioned, while vlogging, the bat meat tasted like the ‘sisiw’ of the ‘balut’.

Balut as we know it is a boiled developing duck embryo popular in Southeast Asian countries, especially in the Philippines and considered as an exotic food that is not for the weak.

In Papua New Guinea, National Geographic featured, in one of their episodes, a tribal community who hunts and whose main food source are fruit bats.

Perhaps we can blame the Western culture for instigating exotic foods as possible causes of viral diseases and how they are portrayed in mainstream movies. ln the 2011 Contagion film, it was revealed in the ending that the disease in the story was somehow acquired from a pig’s meat that ate a small chunk of banana that fell out straight from the mouth of a fruit bat.

Bat soup (and other forbidden meats like dogs, cats, snakes, etc.) may be deemed illegal in many places but the abundancy of all kinds of meat (or lack of it) made it more available as a unique food consumption that challenges adventurous food bloggers and even daring tourists.

But of course, we must not forget the fact that these exotic foods are also vulnerable and can be contaminated with diseases that can be passed on to humans.

How is it linked to novel coronavirus?

The hunting and consumption of bats as bushmeat is a public health risk in West Africa due to the danger of zoonotic diseases. Bats are a natural reservoir for Ebola virus and Marburg virus, and infected bats can pass viruses to humans who come in close contact with them. Bats may also host henipaviruses and various strains of rabies.

Eating fruit bats is also linked to a neurological disease called lytico-bodig disease. Paul Alan Cox from the Hawaiian National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo, and Oliver Sacks from Albert Einstein College in New York, found the bats consumed large quantities of cycad seeds and appear to accumulate the toxins to dangerous levels.

Perhaps the main reason why bat soup has been tagged as the source of this disease was the initial report from China that new coronavirus is similar to the strain of virus common to fruit bats. It must have presumed that cases or symptoms of the disease are attributed to the virus found on bats.

We’re not judging these people who eat the exotic and unusual delicacy. Eating exotic foods is already part of ancestral origins. They do not need to apologize.

We can’t also blame the media for reporting the possible causes of the viral disease but sensationalizing it and giving it a false impression might hurt the people who rely on this dish natured to them and is their only source of living.

Remember, even our favorite fishball snacks are probable cause of disease such as hepatitis if mishandled properly from the factory and up to the food carts/stalls/kiosks (or even if you cooked it at home).

Whether bats and the soup are the source of the 2019 coronavirus, it will help us if we stay vigilant, keeping track of what we eat and drink. Perhaps, stay away from experimenting and eating foods that you are not familiar with.

Photos screencaptured from:

*The Best Ever Food Review Show; Mikey Bustos; and National Geographic YouTube Channels

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