Released on 9 November 2020, the French documentary Hold Up aims to reveal a plot formed by the world’s financial and political elites in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been accused by the media of spreading fake news and conspiracy theories but lately enjoyed great success and publicity. Amongst the many controversial claims being backed up during the film, one can hear that “it is difficult for viruses from the animal world that have infected humans to be transmitted from person to person”. This statement is false.
Understanding what zoonoses are
In the scientific language, viruses coming from the animal world are usually referred to as zoonoses – or zoonotic diseases. These can spread from their animal source to humans through different means, such as direct contact, food, water or the environment. Some of the best known examples of zoonotic diseases, that are very common all around the world, are VIH and Ebola, respectively derived from apes and (probably) bats. These two zoonoses happen to be highly contagious and transmittable, as everyone knows, from person to person.
In the case of the Covid-19, which is the topic discussed in Hold Up, it has not yet been scientifically proved that it is a zoonotic disease. However, as written by the French foundation of the Pasteur Institute, “most of the initially described cases concerned people who had been to a market selling live animals”. Today, given the ongoing pandemic, human-to-human transmission of the Covid-19 does not make any doubt, which would be one more evidence that zoonoses, once they have infected humans, actually can be transmitted from person to person.
Scientists even estimate that zoonoses might constitute the majority of human infectious diseases and that among new infectious diseases detected, 75% are originated from the animal world. Some of these later mutate to human-only strains, but even when they do not and thus remain zoonoses, such diseases are contagious between humans.
Considering the general topic of the documentary, stating that zoonoses hardly spread between humans is probably meant here either to question the animal origin of the Covid-19, or to deny that the Covid-19 can be transmitted from person to person. Besides the fact that, as explained before, these are both scientifically irrelevant theories, and even without mentioning that strange innuendo, this statement is false. It is a very common thing for viruses coming from the animal world that have infected humans to be transmitted from person to person.