An Interview With Dr. Peter Daszak

Here is the transcript of my interview with Dr. Peter Daszak, the lone U.S. member of a team from the World Health Organization that traveled to Wuhan, China, to study the origins of the pandemic. It has been edited for clarity.

One thing I think a lot of people wonder about is, how is this sort of investigation even possible this long after the fact? If you were talking in terms of forensic detective work, you might say that a year along the trail is in danger of going cold. How did you go about picking up that trail again?

Yeah, it’s interesting—if you want to use the detective analogy, this isn’t a cold case. All the evidence is still there. We went to Wuhan seafood market, you look down on the floor, there’s a discarded knife that’s rusting. And you think, well, what is that? Is that a fish knife, or is it a knife you’d use to butcher a mammal? So you’re thinking about all these clues—you look in the stalls, there were definitely a lot of freezers. They sold a lot of frozen food. And then you look at the infrastructure—is it brand new? Is it old and decrepit? Is it something that would be crowded and busy? How will the disease spread in this place? So there’s a lot you can glean.

And then we have patients who are still there, who you can interview; we have people who work there you can interview. And we have samples—not ‘we,’ but the China team has samples that they can go back and retest, they can find the data from the connections, there’s a lot you can do.

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