The World Health Organisation (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have issued interim guidance on reducing public health risks associated with the sale of live wild mammals in traditional food markets around the world.
In a communique released by the group, it called on countries to suspend the sale of captured live wild mammals in food markets as an emergency measure.
“Animals, particularly wild animals, are the source of more than 70% of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, many of which are caused by novel viruses. Wild mammals, in particular, pose a risk for the emergence of new diseases. They come into markets without any way to check if they carry dangerous viruses,” it read.
TheFact Nigeria gathered that, most emerging infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, Marburg haemorrhagic fever, Nipah viral infections and other viral diseases have wildlife origins. Within the coronavirus family, zoonotic viruses were linked to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which was first detected in 2012.
The COVID-19 pandemic stemmed from the introduction of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, into human populations. Although the specific mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 emergence has not been definitively identified, at some point or over time, interactions may have occurred that allowed for cross and multiple-species pathogen transmission.
Giving reasons for the move, the group disclosed that; there is a risk of direct transmission to humans from coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine, mucus, faeces, or other body fluids of an infected animal, and an additional risk of picking up the infection from contact with areas where animals are housed in markets or objects or surfaces that could have been contaminated with such viruses.
“Globally, traditional markets play a central role in providing food and livelihoods for large populations. Banning the sale of these animals can protect people’s health – both those working there and those shopping there,” they said.
Traditional food markets, rather than supermarkets, are the norm in many parts of the world. Such markets form part of the social fabric of communities and are a main source of affordable fresh foods for many low-income groups and an important source of livelihoods for millions of urban and rural dwellers worldwide.
Traditional food markets that are regulated by national or local competent authorities and that operate to high standards of hygiene and sanitation are safe for workers and customers. This, they said was okay, but warned that “significant problems can arise when these markets allow the sale and slaughter of live animals, especially wild animals, which cannot be properly assessed for potential risks in areas open to the public.
“When wild animals are kept in cages or pens, slaughtered and dressed in open market areas, these areas become contaminated with body fluids, faeces and other waste, increasing the risk of transmission of pathogens to workers and customers and potentially resulting in spill over of pathogens to other animals in the market.
“Such environments provide the opportunity for animal viruses, including corona viruses, to amplify themselves and transmit to new hosts, including humans,” it said.