Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Corona viruses have been infecting people for thousands of years, but every now and again a version of the virus will come along that is especialy bad. It will either infect many people and spread quickly, making it difficult to contain, or it will spread more slowly while making those infected seriously ill. SARS-CoV-2 is the latest corona virus to emerge in the human population and has caused a pandemic that many scientists and doctors had predicted, they knew that it would happen one day.
Some people argue that if the world were vegan then these viruses wouldn't spread to humans, that the pandemics wouldn't happen. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is thought to have started in bats, moved to pangolins and then gone on to infect people after they came into contact with the infected pangolin or pangolins in a Chinese wet market. Another corona virus, MERS, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, is belived to have also started in bats that infected camels, that went on to infect people. These viruses were not spread by eating animal products, they didn't even come from being bitten, people were infected after coming into contact with these animals. People, vegans included, come into contact with animals all of the time. We keep cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters and other animals as pets or companions. There are working animals, such as guide dogs, sniffer dogs and animals that visit hospital patients.
Being vegan does not change this and would not prevent infection should one of these animals become ill with something that a human can catch. Also, there is no reason to believe that vegans are less likely to catch these viruses. Yes, a whole food plant based diet is proven by studies to be incredibly healthy, full of nutrients and low in saturated fats, it is also free of the antibiotics that are present in the flesh of animals and the hormones that they produce as well. But, a plant based diet isn't a shield, it does not stop viruses and microbes from entering your body, nor does it prevent viruses or microbes from infecting you once they have.
SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19 as it became known, was first identified in January 2020, but was infecting people in December 2019, hence the name, but in March 2020, news came out of India through social media that vegetarians were unaffected by the disease. This message was said to have been issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). But the WHO’s website does not include any reports claiming that vegetarians do not catch COVID-19.
The message that went out said that WHO representative, Dr Gauden Galea, had stated that vegetarians are not at risk of infection (from COVID-19) and that a WHO report says no vegetarian person in the world has been found to have COVID-19.
In an email to The Logical Indian, Dr Gauden Galea said that his words did not intend to endorse nor condemn any particular diet but to recognise that as long as people continue to eat meat, there will be a need to rear animals, to slaughter them, to distribute and sell their body parts and products. "The statement was part of a longer discussion about the continued global risk of zoonotic viruses and the potential for 'spillover' into human populations. The intent was not to endorse any particular diet nor to condemn any other, but to recognise that as long as people eat meat, there is a need to rear animals, to slaughter them, and to distribute and sell the products. This proximity of animals and humans, thus generated, will create the opportunity, indeed the certainty, of animal-human spillovers of infectious disease."
Dr Gauda Galea, WHO
So, it seems that it was all lies. However, one story emerged in May 2020 of a 74 year old who survived COVID-19 and she insists that this is due to her plant based diet. Andre Dehant and her husband both became infected with COVID-19, she became so ill that doctors moved her to intensive care. The outlook did not look good, but Andre made a recovery and left hospital. Her husband, also vegan, recovered too. The problem is that the vast mahority people that get COVID-19 recover and the vast majority of people are not vegan, so it is impossible to say that Andre's survival is due to her diet.
Without a doubt, people that eat a healthy, whole food plant based diet, low in fat, salt, sugar and processed foods have lower rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension which put people at serious risk of death when infected with COVID-19, but will a plant based diet stop you from catching it? No, unforntunately not; but all of the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients floating around in your body could be massively beneficial in recovering from an infection, COID-19 or any other. But, just in case, wear your face mask and wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.