Blue Flower

Do you realise how many modern pandemics have originated with animals?

About 3500 years ago guidance was given which, had it been followed closely, would have prevented these terrible outbreaks of disease.

The Law of Moses, given by God at Sinai, defined two distinct classes of animal – clean and unclean. The clean mammals were those which chewed the cud and had cloven hooves – cattle, sheep, goats, deer: all the rest were unclean, to be avoided completely as food, and treated with caution if domesticated as working beasts [like horses, asses and camels]. The preferred draught animals in peacetime were oxen. Only fish with scales and fins were clean. Only herbivorous birds were clean – such as doves. These food and contact restrictions, if followed closely, minimised the risk of sickness arising from animal-borne diseases. All recent pandemics have come into humans by way of animals that the Law classed as unclean, and which a faithful Israelite would have avoided completely. (Read Leviticus 11:1-23)

And yet…

SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome)

The SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 was found to have originated in cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Yunnan province, and leapt from animals into humans somewhere in the Guangdong province of China in late 2002. During the outbreak, there were 8,098 reported cases and 774 deaths from this wholly avoidable disease. The pandemic was eventually brought under control in July 2003, by a policy of isolating people suspected of having the condition and screening all air travellers for the infection. Scientists identified the culprit as a strain of coronavirus and found genetically similar viruses in masked palm civets sold in Guangdong’s animal markets, suggesting that the deadly strain originated in the bats, and passed through civets before reaching humans.

MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome)

The MERS outbreak in 2012 also appears to have originated in bats. Evidence to date suggests the virus had been present in bats for some time but spread to camels by the mid-1990s. and on into humans in the early 2010s. Significantly, a September 2013 study [Journal of Eurosurveillance, R A Perera et al] showed abundant presence of MERS-specific antibody in 108 out of 110 Egyptian dromedary camels but not in animals such as goats, cows or sheep in the region. These are the first and significant scientific reports that indicated the role of "dromedary camels" as a reservoir of MERS-CoV.

The virus causing the current pandemic, is closely similar to bat coronaviruses, suggesting it also was originally bat borne. Contact with an intermediate animal reservoir, a species of pangolin in this case, is believed to have introduced it to humans. On 7 February 2020, it was announced that researchers from Guangzhou had discovered a pangolin serum with a viral nucleic acid sequence 99% identical to SARS-CoV-2. Pangolins are actually protected under Chinese law, but their poaching and trading for use in traditional Chinese medicine remains common.

AIDS (Auto-immune Deficiency Syndrome]

This terrible disease is caused by a Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) originating in non-human primates in Central and West Africa. While various sub-groups of the virus acquired the ability to infect humans at different times, the global AIDS pandemic had its origins in one specific strain found in Léopoldville in the Belgian Congo [now Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] in the 1920s.

All these intermediate animal disease hosts are specifically unclean under the Law of Moses. Had mankind learned from this Law of God, none of these diseases would ever have found their way among us...

Exodus 15:26

And [God] said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.

Other features of the Law of Moses were…

An insistence on washing, of clothes, persons and vessels for food and drink in a broad array of circumstance, minimising the risk of food poisoning and the spread of disease. (Read Leviticus 11:24-40)

A highly relevant feature of the Law of Moses was isolation. An individual with suspected or diagnosed disease had to remain outside the camp, alone for a period, to determine the severity of the problem and to determine the action to be taken. (Read Leviticus 13:1-6)

The value of these laws in preventing and controlling disease is almost universally disregarded. Nor is the wisdom of the originator of these laws appreciated. They were given, for both practical and spiritual reasons, by the Lord God Almighty to His chosen people, and to all who read His Word for guidance in their lives.

That Word can do more than help keep us healthy in this present life: it can lead us to everlasting life, unhindered by mortal ailments, if we follow its instruction.

Interesting links

Coronavirus in tigers

The global wildlife trade

The man who wrote the book...

Pangolins