BRAZIL – 2021/04/02: In this photo illustration, a hand holds a medical syringe with a World Health Organization (WHO) company logo displayed on a screen in the background. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Tuesday April 13, 2021: The World Health Organization (WHO) called on Tuesday urged countries to stop the sale of live wild mammals in food markets in order to prevent the emergence of new diseases such as Covid-19.
The WHO said, because traditional markets play a central role in providing food and
livelihoods for large populations, banning the sale of live wild mammals could protect the
health of market workers and customers alike.
The call came in fresh guidance drawn up in conjunction with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The three agencies said, wild animals were the source of most emerging infectious diseases in humans and recommended measures to reduce the potential risk.
“Covid-19 has brought new attention to this threat, given the magnitude of its consequences,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters.
The agencies recalled that some of the earliest known cases of Covid-19 had links to a
wholesale traditional food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
They added that samples from the Wuhan market suggested that it might be the source of the coronavirus pandemic’s outbreak and/or that it played a role in the initial amplification of the outbreak.
They also said that it was likely that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease,
originated in wild animals, though how the virus made the species jump into humans is not
The agencies said there was a strong association between sale of live wild animals in markets and the emergence of new viruses in humans.
“Animals, particularly wild animals, are the source of more than 70 percent 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,” the guidance said.
“Traditional markets, where live animals are held, slaughtered and dressed, pose a particular risk for pathogen transmission to workers and customers alike.”
The new document is to provide guidance “to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 and other zoonoses in traditional food markets,” it said.
The agencies called for improved hygiene standards in traditional food markets to reduce the risk of transmitting diseases from animals, and between people.
They called for tougher regulations to control the farming and sale of wild animals heading to markets for human consumption.
They also said that, food and veterinary inspectors should be trained in enforcing new
regulations. They also suggested for stronger surveillance systems for animal viruses, and food safety information campaigns for market traders and consumers.