Viral outbreak

Wildlife markets linked to new coronavirus outbreak

A new viral outbreak originated in China may have its cause the consumption of bats as food.

Wildlife markets are the main source of viral epidemics

Horseshoe bat. Image: Ecohealth Alliance

After deforestation, wildlife trafficking is a major cause of reduction in wildlife populations. Ironically, it can also lead to a reduction of human life because of the diseases this type of crime can ‘wake up’.

Criminals respect no boundaries and do not care whether an animal is threatened with extinction. Making money is what matters and they do it because someone pays them to do it.

China is a major consumer of wildlife, with many markets selling all types of wild animals, often in cruel and unhygienic conditions.

With the new coronavirus outbreaks causing China to quarantine whole cities, it has emerged that the virus, that can be transmitted from human to human, originates in a wildlife market.

The SARS-related virus broke out in Wuhan, in central China, and has spread to Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

It has already reached Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea in a matter of weeks. On Tuesday (21), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a case in Washington State, on the west coast of the United States.

As at yesterday (22), 450 cases had been reported globally, with nine deaths.

Virus emerges from wildlife markets

Experts agree that, like previous epidemics, the source of the trouble is the wildlife trade.

“If we were to shut the wildlife markets, a lot of these outbreaks would be a thing of the past,” Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, told National Geographic.

Lipkins is an expert on the topic, having worked with China during the SARS crisis in 2003.

The coronavirus and SARS are zoonotic, that is, they start in animals before spreading to humans. These include other diseases such as HIV, Ebola and H5N1 influenza.

The SARS outbreak first affected people who worked directed with food from wild animals as well as people who lived in the vicinity of wildlife markets.

Source of the coronavirus outbreak

The first reports of pneumonia-like cases of the new disease started at the very end of December in Wuhan City in central China.

Known as South China Seafood City, the city is also home to wildlife markets  selling racoon dogs and deers, all cruelly crammed inside small cages.

Although no one knows for sure which animal the SARS-like virus could be traced back to, Chinese media has reported that fruit bats could be hosting the virus.

The hypothesis has been boosted by a viral video showing a Chinese woman eating bat soup, a delicacy in some parts of China.

The same report says that scientists have found the virus has a “strong binding affinity” to a human protein called ACE2, which is very similar to SARS.

<h2>Leave animals alone</h2>

Nature seems to take revenge for animals for being treated so cruelly. It seems no animal is safe in this world and humans are crossing dangerous borders in order to satiate their appetite for dominance over other animals.

When animals are captured, caged and treated like commodities, their stress creates an opportunity for them to shed virus and be sick. Sometimes, viruses and bacteria will find in humans a suitable host, too.

In Brazil, for instance, many people have contracted leprosy from eating armadillo they hunt in nature. Armadillos also host the leprosy bacillus and pass it on to people.

Leprosy is a disease that was heavily stigmatized in the past and it still takes considerable effort to treat.

The problem is that the violence and selfishness of some people affects us all. The viruses being released into the world do not pick their targets. Everyone is game. Just like all non-human animals are game for that same portion of humanity that causes this type of trouble.

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