International agencies urge to stop live animal sales in food markets to cut public health risks

MOSCOW (April 14): Prominent international organisations have called on national governments to suspend trading live wild animals in traditional food markets as part of measures to reduce the public health risks associated with such sales, including the outbreak of new diseases, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to interim guidance.

The guidance follows WHO's release of the full version of a report by an international expert group on its mission to Wuhan -- the world's first COVID-19 hotspot -- to establish the origins of the coronavirus. According to the authors, the virus was most likely transmitted to humans from bats through an intermediary animal, according to Sputnik.

"WHO (the World Health Organisation), OIE (the World Organisation for Animal Health) and UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) call on all national competent authorities to suspend the trade in live caught wild animals of mammalian species for food or breeding purposes and close sections of 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," the joint interim guidance issued on Monday by the WHO read.

According to the organisations, the sale of live wild animals is strongly linked to the emergence of novel zoonotic pathogens, as wild animals are reported to be the source of more than 70 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans.

"Traditional markets, where live animals are held, slaughtered and dressed, pose a particular risk for pathogen transmission to workers and customers alike. To mitigate this risk, an immediate emergency measure for regulatory authorities would be to introduce regulations to close these markets or those parts of the markets where live caught wild animals of mammalian species are kept or sold to reduce the potential for transmission of zoonotic pathogens," the guidance added.

At the same time, the report notes that the emergency measures should be temporary and remain in force until competent authorities conduct a risk assessment of each market.

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