By Yoichi Shimatsu
In the brief span since my series opener on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, fear and loathing of Chinese tourists is palpable as the Lunar New Year slouches toward a world unprepared for a global contagion. As the death toll rises into double digits in Wuhan, the vaccinators of the World Health Organization have gone silent, afraid to reveal their helplessness against the invisible killer. The repetition of a global pandemic, along the lines of the 1918-19 influenza catastrophe in which more than 50 million people perished, is not a figment of the imagination or outside the realm of possibility. It has already started, and spreading out like a ghost army on maneuvers. It is impossible to predict who will die or how things will end.
There are signals and signs of from where it emerged, how it broke loose and where it’s going. One theme that our series shall keep returning to is the rise of this particular coronavirus stain identified as WH_1 out of the vast checkerboard of fish farms along the middle-lower reaches of the Yangtze River downstream from the Three Gorges Dam, one of the world’s greatest concentrations of aquaculture in a technology-altered environment.
China produces more than 70 percent of global aquaculture production, shipping more than 2 million metric ton of product to the USA, Japan, Europe and South Korea, much of it pond-raised Tilapia that appears in the guise of near-extinct fish species such as halibut, cod, red snapper and perch in the frozen food section of supermarkets, inside the bun of fast-food chains with dab of mayonnaise, and seafood restaurants like Red Lobster, which complies with Chinese methods of using fresh pig manure as a supplementary source of feed and antibiotics for Tilapia, shrimp and Red Lobster chain crustaceans eaten by Americans, Japanese and Europeans. Bon Apetit!
In this series, with advice from my former teammates in a public education effort during the 2006 SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, I will discuss models and pathways for the emergence of the Wuhan fish market coronavirus with special focus on stress factors on fish grown in pig-partnered aquaculture operations, a green eco-friendly method that Greta Thunberg should advocate for Scandinavia, through recycling effluent, antibiotics and growth hormones to reduce carbon emissions and save water-treatment plants from climate change.
Still in between its third and fourth round of mutation, the coronavirus is yet to reach its highest level of intensity in the relentless hunt for a more reliable host organism, with human bodies comprising a mere stop-gap in its quest to return to a sugary diet. Coronovirus gains energy from sugar (and starch) in your bloodstream, meaning ice-cream lovers and fruit snackers worldwide will be more vulnerable to invasive infection than sauerkraut and mustard (on hot dogs) baseball fans like me.
That’s one of the reasons since my stay in Hong Kong during the 2002 SARS outbreak that I’ve on a predator diet supplemented by cancer-fighting herbs, beets and carrots. During the SARS outbreak that killed 776 people, I never once wore a face mask, had topical surgery at a hospital to have a cyst removed, and imbibed resveratrol through red wine. Within a decade, I was pumping a bicycle inside the Fukushima nuclear-exclusion zone. Vegan propaganda, in times like these, is risky behavior. Avoid cookies, cakes, milkshakes, blueberries and bubble tea, and instead stick with vinegar on sauerbraten and 100-proof alcohol for dessert to suppress the virus. This advice is not some joke, sugar deprivation is the key to survival in this contagion. But for most of you, it’s probably too late to change bad habits like a balanced diet, so enjoy a Tootsie Roll as if it’s the last thing you’ll ever slurp.
Better ways to die
Briefly, the symptoms of the SARS-related Wuhan virus include a fever of 38 C (100F), dry cough, alternating sweat and chills, uncontrollable shaking, red rash and burning diarrhea. Weaker patients die from a combination of kidney failure, lung damage and heart stoppage. There is no known cure since Western antibiotics only accelerates diarrhea and worsens the patient’s condition.
The only palliative late in the SARS epidemic proved to be Chinese herbal therapy to reduce body heat. My chief herbal practitioner whose herbal formulations save lives during the early phase of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has since died after reaching the century mark. Fine minds are leaving this orb while plumb fools are taking over. Complete recovery and restoration of health is moot; damage to internal organs is permanent and shortens the lifespan. Coronavirus is far more destructive to vital tissues than the “normal” flu.
You will not read these hard cold facts anywhere else, because it was only my public health team of microbiologists and herbal practitioners that provided the only sound advice in Hong Kong, which was rejected by arrogant British-trained hospital bureaucrats, even after our methods led to stunning recoveries in patients in Guangdong Province, pulling many back from death’s doorstep. As I’ve just stated dietary restriction is essential, sugar and carbs are poison and the feel-good vegan mantra is self-hypnosis.
Great Wall of Laser
The fate of billions of vulnerable sugar lovers worldwide depends on the Great Wall of flu monitoring at major airports around the world. The sole means of surveillance in this losing cause is a hand-held device, called an infrared thermometer pointed at the foreheads of arriving passengers on their way to enter the immigration queue. A newly infected virus carrier, who has yet to develop a fever, easily slips past this detector’s temp reading, while a feverish flu patient is liable to have already spread the virus inside the jetliner cabin and throughout two airports. Coronavirus is most virulent in its earlier rounds, prior to “burning out” and “evolving away” harmlessly in about four to six months from now, meaning you are at present in the hottest region of the hot zone. Have a lollipop and try take religion more seriously, because soon you may want to say a prayer, the very last line of defense.
Fail for pervasive surveillance in China
The old adage goes: When you need it most, it doesn’t work. That, in a nutshell, shows how China’s unprecedented surveillance program, online monitoring, media censorship, and the social credit system have proven to be as effective as the late Ming Dynasty’s “impenetrable” Great Wall while banner-waving Manchu warriors rode through the wide-open gates on a tide of conquest. Pride goes before the fall!
Against the rapid emergence of this lethal threat, the much-ballyhooed Chinese facial recognition system has proven to be an utter failure with only 60 people from the outbreak epicenter reporting to hospital after dining inside the crowded 1000-stall Wuhan fish market. At least a thousand undetected victims of infection are hiding out and refusing to report, probably out of fear of isolation with no exit other than into a plasma crematorium. In hindsight it seems that pervasive surveillance, including the facial recognition system with name-matching, is mainly useful for issuing traffic tickets for speeding violations and turning from the wrong lane, and not an instrument for dealing with life-and-death public security threats.
The 2 million watchdogs with China’s massive online censorship bureau have also failed to pick up online activity among any of the thousands of possible fever cheaters who’ve disobeyed the leadership’s stern orders to report to a hospital, presumably out of paranoiac fears of disappearing down the bowels of the militarized health system only to emerge in some detention camp in the highlands or in a western deserts formerly used to provide vocational training for minority groups. So numbers of coronavirus victims are being pulled out of the air with computer programs based on estimated disease progression, spewing numbers that will soon be overtaken by the global casualty count.
The social credit system, under which parents are supposed to keep watch over their children for uttering subversive code-words like “fundamental rights” or “intellectual freedom”, has stalled to a halt since wheezing and coughing are untranslatable. The paternalistic apparatus of social monitoring of 1.4 billion citizens is not functioning in Wuhan, a bustling industrial town packed with low-paid workers who are buying slow train tickets unhindered so as to return to their registered addresses in the boondocks. Detaining all these suspects at this sensitive moment when the real GDP is plummeting is unwise, especially if an angry protester coughs in the faces of policemen.
Wuhan proves that the much-dreaded system of surveillance, censorship and social credit is primarily focused against the citizens of the future, university students, under the rubric that smarter individuals pose the most serious threat to incompetence. Thus, youth discontent arising from high expectations is steadily crushed under the brute arrogance of nepotism, hidden wealth, mental laziness, throwing away money on baubles, and “relationships” on the Tinder account, the sort of wastrel lifestyle of connected families (300 surnames) that Confucius adamantly opposed and warred against.
Instead of putting trust and reliance on local people, especially housewives, grandmothers and kindergarten teachers, those who genuinely care about children’s health, the Beijing bosses have been scapegoating the governor of Hunan Province implicating his provincial team in accusation of laxity and a cover-up. Coronavirus has been upgraded to a Class A security level up there with cholera and the Unit 731 legacy of bubonic plague, as if the similar SARS virus that killed 774 infected patients is tame.
The false front of Chinese”civilization” as it is today constituted is a cover for barbaric greed that remains intact 3,000 years after the passing of the Teacher, to whom we bow in gratitude for his wisdom in waking us up to fact that power does not serve the interests of society and so the ethical man must struggle forward on own strength against impossible odds because justice must be done. There is no need or desire for reward or victory, when people are dying in droves without receiving a tear-drop of compassion.
Internationalizing an epidemic
The blame game is buying time for vacationers to pack up and cross the borders so that coronavirus becomes an internationalized crisis, a shared burden for all societies without blame cast on anyone in particular. This is a cunning strategy for avoiding responsibility by spreading the guilt. For our few remaining team members in the public information group that challenged official negligence in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak, this all seems like a rerun, as in that famous quote about history repeating itself: “The first time was a tragedy, the second round is a farce.” Only it’s not humorous.
As Chinese flee China in fear, a non-political Hong Kong-based computer-modeling system drawing trend patterns from past pandemics estimates this coronavirus has by now spread to more than 29 cities across China. Wuhan, a city of 11 million residents, is now under quarantine. At the estimated rate of expansion, coronavirus will be worldwide by St. Valentine’s Day. If the present trajectory is anywhere in the range of probability, Wuhan coronavirus is the H-bomb of microorganisms.
Pigs to Fish
The rise of coronavirus in fish, and probably soon to transit through ducks and maybe even frogs, coincides with the clean sweep of African swine flu over depopulated hog farms across China. The period from mid-autumn 2019 to mid-winter is an intriguing time-span when the virulent swine flu was mopping up the last of the national pig herd and coronavirus gradually began to mutate into evermore virulent variants. The few months of overlap before and during the onset of winter corresponds with the maxim that flu mutations usually occur when outdoor temperatures change by 10 degrees C over a period of 10 days. In other words, the break-out was during flu season.
This coincidence raises the question: Was there a connection between the clean-up of pig pens following the loss of the national hog herd and changes in aquaculture pond conditions that triggered coronavirus mutation inside dying one-cell host flagellates in pond water?
Condemnation of questionable practices in Chinese agriculture is irrelevant. Biological waste is not entirely toxic when organic farmers in the West use manure to fertilizer their gardens. The crisis driver was actually the transfer of toxic chemicals (used to sterilize pig quarters) and surplus antibiotics in heavy concentration done without foresight as to the consequences of transferring these toxins into the habitat of fish, algae and microorganisms especially flagellates, the natural host species of coronavirus.
From the viewpoint of agriculture experts and pharmacologists specializing in aquaculture, veterinary health safety of fish has not been seen as a major issue, when extra dosages of antibiotics not only prevent diseases but also promote growth, while lowering the cost of fish feed. Furthermore, pig effluent recycling in fish ponds is safer and more efficient green strategy than dumping pig manure onto open-air landfills near human habitation or by riverbanks. Besides, fish thrive on poop.
Die-off of the pig herd
During the late summer swine die-off, an unforeseen problem arose when sanitation of hog pens required cleansing with anti-bacterial compounds, harsh chemicals including chlorine and carbolic acid, and dumping the contents of partly used bottles of antibiotics, medicines, mineral supplements and so on. Another possible practice, of which so far no evidence has surfaced, that being the conversion of diseased swine flesh into meal to feed fish, the threat could be extreme not from swine flu infected meat but from massive antibiotic dosages concentrated in the gut and internal organs.
These possible interventions in the emergency response to the African swine flu could well have had extremely negative impacts on aquaculture environments, inadvertently triggering the rapid mutation of coronavirus inside their dying host flagellates, which resulted months later in the outbreak in humans as a temporary sugar supply for mutated viruses at the Wuhan fish market. Humans in this sense are merely a link in the food chain, which was once an established fact before the near-extinction of the Yangtze alligator, of which a mere 150 have managed to survive the violent counterattack.
Anomalies in chaos theory
The unintended secondary usage of antibiotics, caustic chemicals and biochemical waste (from the pig’s endocrine system) is proof of chaos theory, in that small changes to a dominant pattern could result in catastrophic consequences. A butterfly in China flaps its wings, generating a hail storm in California. The series of mishaps involving dead pigs and a tenuous balance inside aquaculture ponds is more complicated than the famous butterfly due to the witches’ brew of chemicals and drugs. Instead of gigantic Frankenfish, what emerged were a vast array of nano-weapons.
Now we begin to see how convenient it was to hang a label, WH-Human-1/China/2019-Dec, on a virus sample from Round 1, whereas the elements and processes that created the crisis of viral terror was complicated and often haphazard, being a series of reactions to a swine flu that originated in Africa and crossed over from Eastern Europe to China in infected pork used to make Chinese sausages to the lunar new year festival. Pork, heaven and hell in one bite.
The Sheet List
Here is a list of antimicrobials used in Tilapia raising in China, without detailed comment on toxicity or reactivity with other medications and chemicals, aquaculture pharmacology being a highly intricate specialized field. Approved anti-microbials for China aquaculture include tetracyclines, sulfonamides, variants of penicillin, aminoglycosides and arsenic-based compounds.
The amount of antibiotics used in aquaculture are estimated to total about 40 million kg nationwide. These are usually combined in different formulations, for use in feed stock, for disease suppression through injections, or to combined with vaccines. Dosages have steadily risen due to increased microbial resistance to drugs, resulting in the rise of super-bugs. The majority of these drugs are approved for both pigs and aquatic species. Despite trials with herbal immune boosters and plant-derived suppressants, antibiotics remain the industry’s primary defense against infectious diseases.
The problem, of course, is that radioactive contamination from the Fukushima disaster has nearly completed the kill-off of wild fish in the Pacific Ocean, compounded by waste plastic leaking toxic compounds along with nano-particles. The Greenpeace campaign for sustainable catches of alternative species for the fish market is a weak evasion of the reality of a marine population collapse, a major extinction event. Aquaculture, which has been seen as alternative to netting wild fish, is starting to implode from chemical-pharmaceutical poisoning, lack of clean water to refresh ponds, antibiotic resistance in pathogens and now emergence of viruses threatening to human survival. In Guangdong, Hainan and Fujian, fish-farming has reached its limits as conditions continue to deteriorate. The chemistry of the ocean, rivers and lakes have been radically altered by human intervention, but now the entire natural water supply on Earth is reaching a terminal crisis.
What once was
Before concluding Part 2, let me again stress the doctrine of reasoned abstinence when it comes to food or other natural resources, for that matter, in an era of systemic collapse of the environment. The present crisis contrasts with my boyhood when my family got seafood by surf-casting on the beaches, digging clams and sometimes tying a string to leader and on the other end to a willow switch, for a handmade pole and tackle to catch a rainbow trout. My particular task was to drag a canvas bag and a heavy iron cage to the end of a wave-tossed jetty. There, I’d open the bag, take out the two halves of an uncooked hog’s head and stuff these into the cage as bait, and then grapple a long rope to lower the cage to the seafloor. After a wait and some jiggles on he rope, I’d haul up the trap packed with crabs poking at the pig’s eyes and snout and drag that cage along the jetty to load into the trunk of an old Dodge. Pigs and fish have come a long ways since those days, but I won’t eat the new stuff that tries to pass as seafood.
With that memory, let’s conclude with what my microbiology adviser meant when asserting the Three Gorges Dam (and all the industrial investment made possible by its power generation) has befouled the riverine environment, and now the end result is the lethal Wuhan coronavirus with worse to come.
In the not too distant past, fish could digest just about anything without going belly up. The Yangtze River was a maze of marshes, low-lying islands, canals and streams, abundant with sedges, water lilies, mosses, willows, algae and underwater foliage, where a fish or bird suffering indigestion or infection could find shelter and healing herbs. There used to be 170 lakes inside Wuhan; today there’s only 30 left, most ringed by concrete. Upstream there’s the wall, now bent and sagging, of the big Three Gorges dam and behind that lesser barriers, preventing annual springtime cleansing of the river bottom and clean-sweeping of its banks. Even the vast wetlands of Baguo Island at Nanjing is bordered by the chemical industry emitting a toxic fog. As put by our chief microbiologist, the entire Yangtze eco-system isn’t just dying, it’s evolving into a pathological threat.
There are a few remaining stretches of hope, in Anhui and Hunan provinces with wetlands, where water fowl and the once near-extinct swimming Milu deer abound, but those are exceptions that remain endangered. The buoy-marked channels for vessels hauling oil upstream and gravel downstream prevent recreational use of a river that was once filled with sails and tail-oared boats. As the list of endangered species gets shorter every decade, Asia’s longest river is approaching its death passage into an afterlife as a canal.
The demolition of the Yangtze river culture, prettified by landscaped riverside parks built on top of bulldozed fishing villages and cross-river ferry docks, is a disgrace to 4,000 years of Chinese history, but nobody gives one yuan of care about the past so long as e-commerce isn’t disturbed, ownership of a scooter or a car remains the main goal in life, and artificially tasty fake food is as abundant as chemical-laced shrimp and crayfish raised on hog manure and antibiotics.