From Jim O'Brien
February 07, 2020

Where Plagues Start

Hi Friend,

By now you've heard of the deadly Coronavirus sweeping the world. You have also heard that it originated in China, in the Wuhan region. AI projections are that 2.5 billion people will be infected and possibly 53 million will die from the plague. The latest theory that shocks the sensibilities of normal people is that it was contracted from eating "bat" soup, a Chinese delicacy.

A few years ago I lived in Mobile, Alabama, home to a popular Chinese restaurant. We were surprised when this well-liked restaurant closed without warning. The local news reported that they were serving "cat" to some customers.

However distasteful that may sound to Americans, it's probably no worse than some western delicacies. I confess that every time I pass the lobster tank at Kroger, I cringe at the thought of actually ingesting the ugly creatures. Same with shrimp and snails.

Growing up in Western Kentucky my friends went squirrel hunting-and they ate them for dinner. How is that worse than eating bat soup? After all, snail is considered a delicacy at many expensive restaurants.

"All that is personal taste," you say, "and you should be more tolerant of other cultures and their culinary differences." To that I answer, "But you are repulsed by the thought of eating a cat or dog." Why is that not considered culturally insensitive and why is the Board of Health allowed to close a restaurant that serves them?

Back to bats-health officials have a "very strong suspicion" that the Coronavirus could have its genesis not only from eating bats, but also from eating snakes that eat the bats. As creepy as all this sounds, it is very serious. A worldwide pandemic is threatening to break out with the possibility of millions dying.

A little history is helpful. In the year 1347 mankind's existence was threatened by the breakout of the Black Plague-or Black Death as some call it. Over half of Europe's population died before it ended in 1352. A person could wake up in the morning feeling fine and be dead by noon. More than half of the citizens of London either died or fled-same with Paris. It was worse in Florence. There was no part of the world that wasn't affected by the plague.

In some monasteries ninety percent of the clergy succumbed to the disease. Nobles retreated to the country to avoid being infected by family or friends.

Now the big questions: where did the Black Plague start? And what was the cause? The most educated guess is that it started in China and was spread by Mongolian armies attacked Kaffa (now called Feodosia) a port city on the coast of the Black Sea. The Mongols catapulted their infected soldiers into the city during the siege. It was the first recorded example of biological warfare. From there it spread to Italy via trading ships.

Even more intriguing is how the disease started. How did people in China get it?

No one knows for certain but there are "suspicious" clues from history. Again, it relates to foods that were eaten by barbaric people of the time.

One of the interesting oddities of the time is that observant Jews were not affected by the disease like others. Some historians suggest that Jews who cleaned crumbs from their homes during the Days of Unleavened Bread removed the foods that attracted rats. Spring is the rainy season that was an incubation period for disease, so infected rats did not infest their homes during this vulnerable time as they did others. Without the rats, the deadly fleas and gnats were not a factor to transmit the disease to humans.

One other fascinating connection-just as bat soup is suspected of being the dietary culprit that transmitted the Coronavirus to humans, contaminated pork was one of the suspects as a carrier of the Black Plague. (You've heard of swine flu.) Once again, observant Jews were not affected.

It makes one wonder-was Leviticus 11 written to protect mankind from potential pandemics? The reality is, the world might just avoid disease epidemics by listening to God's word.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien