Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel Monday that the origin of the coronavirus outbreak remains virtually unknown -- and refused to rule out a startling theory that the virus may have originated in a high-security biochemical lab in Wuhan, China.
"Our colleagues at CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and NIH [National Institutes of Health] on the task force have made it very clear. We don't yet know the origin of this particular virus," Cuccinelli told Siegel on "Tucker Carlson Tonight."
"We are not entirely sure how this one started yet," he continued. "There is a biological facility in the ... province that people worry about. But I will say the reading that I have done of medical professionals suggest that the structure of the virus seems unlikely to have been man-made because if it was made to be a threat, you would expect to see certain characteristics that aren’t present."
"Does that mean it rules it out?" Cuccinelli added, "No, not absolutely."
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Last week, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. reiterated his earlier suggestion that the deadly virus originated in a biosafety level 4 "super laboratory" in Wuhan, despite backlash from critics, specifically Rutgers University chemical biology professor Richard Ebright, who said he found no indication in the genome sequence of the virus to indicate it was engineered.
"We know it didn't originate in the Wuhan food market based on the study of Chinese scientists ... I'm not saying where it started, I don't know. We don't know because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) won't open up to international experts," Cotton said on "The Story." "That's what we need to do so they can get to the bottom of where the virus originated and hopefully can effect a diagnostic test and vaccine for it."
Fox News medical analyst Dr. Siegel questioned whether the unverified claim could be "another thing we have to worry about" as the United States ramps up efforts to contain the virus.
"Yikes," he told Carlson. "It does not mean it rules it out ... so that is another thing we have to worry about."
"Where did this come from?"
Siegel credited the CDC's efforts to increase the distribution of test kits in order to "differentiate the virus from the flu or a respiratory problem," but maintained his theory that the actual number of deaths from the virus is far greater than the officially reported figures.
"I think there was a lot more deaths than reported ... in South Korea, 800 cases and we don't know yet, but it looks like it's pretty deadly in Iran too ... several cases dying in Iran ... and Italy," Siegel explained.
"I think it may be more than the 2 percent case rate that they're saying but I will tell you one thing, a lot of people are ending up with pneumonia from this virus," the doctor added. "This is a very, very serious virus that puts people in the ICU."