A bipartisan group of Senators and House members called on the World Health Organization Wednesday to ban wildlife markets such as the one in China that is thought to have sparked the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawmakers, 24 Senators and 42 members of the House, said that while the Chinese government ostensibly banned the so-called “wet” markets after the coronavirus outbreak, “significant loopholes” remain that allow for the markets to remain in business.
“In order to help prevent the next pandemic, we write today to urge your organizations to take aggressive action toward a global shut down of live wildlife markets and a ban on the international trade of live wildlife that is not intended for conservation purposes,” the lawmakers wrote to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and two other world health officials.
The markets are also called “wet” markets because they sell live animals such as dogs, cats, snakes, bats and hedgehogs, often for food or medicinal purposes. (RELATED: Here’s A List Of Some Of The Most Unusual Animals Available At A Wuhan Wet Market)
Epidemiologists have long recognized that the unsanitary conditions of many of the markets create prime conditions for a viruses to transmit from animals to humans.
“Market vendors cage animals of different species in close proximity, where the animals are likely to urinate, defecate and potentially bleed or salivate on the animals below them,” the letter says.
Scientists believe that the novel coronavirus was likely spread from a bat to another species of animal sold at a market in Wuhan, China. The virus has since infected more than 1.5 million around the globe and caused nearly 88,000 deaths.
The 2003 SARS outbreak also originated from a wet market in China. Ebola and MERS, two other highly lethal viruses, spread from bats to humans in Africa and the Middle East, respectively.
“The stress of transport and holding wild animals in these crowded markets where they are also sometimes slaughtered creates an unnatural environment where viruses from different species are able to come in contact, mutate, and spread from one species to another,” the lawmakers said.
“It is clear that to protect human health, these close and sustained interactions with wildlife must stop.”
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