Security personnel outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

I disagreed with the March 3 editorial “China owes the world answers on how covid began” that claimed “only by understanding how the pandemic started can the world begin to prepare for the next one.”

Understanding how the pandemic began in China would add just one single data point to our already deep understanding on how pandemics begin. We already have plenty of evidence of the zoonotic origin of a number of viruses including Ebola, HIV, avian influenza, Marburg and rabies. We already know that poorly controlled wet markets around the world are a source of disease. We also know that safety in some labs has been problematic. There have been numerous leaks in many countries. And, as of 2021, there were 60 biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) labs in operation, planned or under construction in 23 countries.

We already know there is unclear specification of what constitutes “gain-of-function” research, which is a method with huge potential benefits but also considerable risks. And we have mountains of evidence on how best to respond to pandemics such as covid-19 through social means and vaccines.

Efforts would be better served by launching an internationally funded program to control or close wet markets, improve lab security and certification, and educate about risks and responses. Understanding the China case would provide just a single data point when we already know enough to start to combat and prevent future pandemics.

Ridley Nelson, Great Falls