Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers and intelligence officials still don't have an answer as to how the virus originated. 

The question lies in whether COVID-19 spread from an animal-to-human transmission or if it was leaked from a lab. Finding the answer also would pinpoint the beginning of the virus, which according to Dr. Michael Grantham, a biology professor at Missouri Western State University who studies infectious diseases, can be extremely important in understanding the illness. 

"It's really difficult to sort of find the origin of these things, especially early on," Grantham said. "There are a number of possibilities that we have right now for SARS-CoV-2. It could be a spillover from animals, and there are a number of different viruses that have spilled over into humans."

Grantham said a Chinese market originally was considered a source for COVID-19 due to the many cases that geographically centered around the area. However, he said a lab leak is not something that has been ruled out. 

"There are a lot of these viruses being worked with around the world, and in general, it's not an unsafe sort of situation," Grantham said. "There are a lot of precautions that go into this type of work, but it's not something that has never happened." 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he feels a further investigation is needed by U.S. and international agencies. He said he has seen some intelligence involving the matter and thinks it should be released to the public. 

"The American people deserve to see the intelligence. I think it's a little misleading to say that some agencies have assessed that it was a natural theory," Hawley said. 

Hawley said there is a need to know how involved the Chinese government was in the origins of the virus and whether there was a lab leak.

"This needs to be done in the public eye so that we can get the information we need to make sure this doesn't happen again," Hawley said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Clayton Anderson can be reached at clayton.anderson@newspressnow.com. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowAnderson.

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