WHO and partners urge countries to halt sales of wild mammals at food markets

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The temporary guidelines were reportedly issued by WHO alongside the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

They said animals, particularly wild animals, are the source of more than 70 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, many of which are caused by novel viruses. Wild mammals sold in markets pose particular risk as there is no way to check if they carry dangerous viruses.

"Traditional markets, where live animals are held, slaughtered and dressed, pose a particular risk for pathogen transmission to workers and customers alike," the guidance stated.

The partners noted that some of the earliest known cases of COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, were linked to a traditional food market in Wuhan, China. Many of the first people to have the disease were stall owners, market employees or regular visitors.

“It is likely that the virus that causes COVID-19 originated in wild animals, as it belongs to a group of coronaviruses normally found in bats”, they said.

“One hypothesis is that the virus was initially transmitted to humans through an intermediary animal host that is, as yet, unknown. Another possibility is that the virus was transmitted directly from a host species of animal to humans.”

In addition to halting sales of wild animals, the guidelines also call on governments to close markets, or sections of markets, and to re-open them “only on condition that they meet required food safety, hygiene and environmental standards and comply with regulations.”

Authorities are also urged to improve hygiene and sanitation at traditional food markets to reduce transmission of zoonotic diseases.

Source: Asia-Plus