The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have called for suspending sales of live wild mammals in traditional food markets (wet markets) to prevent the emergence of new deadly diseases such as Covid 19.
They pointed out that the sales ban of these animals can protect people’s health – both working there and those shopping there. The WHO published the interim guidance alongside the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The UN organisations stated that animals, especially wild animals, are the source of more than 70 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans. Novel viruses cause many of the diseases. They said that the wild animals sold in Wet Markets pose a higher risk as no mechanism is available to check if they carry dangerous viruses. These Wet markets where live animals are held slaughtered and dressed pose a risk for pathogen transmission.
They noted that some of the earliest known cases of Covid 19 caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 were linked to a traditional food market in Wuhan. Most of the affected were stall owners, market employees or regular visitors, they added.
Apart from stopping the sales of wild animals, the interim guidelines also call for closing markets, or sections of markets. It said that markets should only re-open “only on condition that they meet required food safety, hygiene and environmental standards and comply with regulations.”
- Suspend the trade of live caught wild animals of mammalian species for food or breeding purposes
- Close food markets selling live caught wild animals of mammalian species as an emergency measure unless demonstrable effective regulations and adequate risk assessment are in place.
- Strengthen regulatory basis for improving standards of hygiene and sanitation in traditional food markets to reduce the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases.
- Introduce additional measures for crowd control and physical distancing, hand washing and sanitizing stations as well as education on respiratory hygiene
- Conduct risk assessments to provide the evidence base for developing regulations to control the risks of transmission of zoonotic microorganisms from farmed wild animals and caught wild animals
- Regulations should address the traceability of farmed wild animals to ensure that they are distinguished from caught wild animals
- Adequately train Food inspectors to ensure that businesses comply with regulations to protect consumers’ health
- Strengthen animal health surveillance systems for zoonotic pathogens to include both domestic and wild animals.
- Develop and implement food safety information campaigns for market traders, stallholders, consumers and public.