China needs to clean up its ‘wet’ markets – global health depends on it
They can’t be banned, but they can be made safer, because the next disease outbreak is inevitable
The world had been warned. Experts said repeatedly where and how the next deadly virus would emerge. Yet here we are facing a reality we all knew was coming.
It began, utterly predictably, at a crowded live animal market. A virus unknown to humans was lurking in a chicken, a pig, or a local delicacy. Then came the spread to humans with zero immunity. With no test, vaccine, or proven medicine, the epidemic is with us.
Epidemiologists are not yet in full agreement about the precise animal culprit but there is no doubt the outbreak originated from a local “wet” market selling dead and live animals. The outbreak resulted from an animal-to-human species jump – as do three of four new human infectious diseases epidemics. HIV-Aids, Ebola, Zika, bird flu, as well as previous Sars and MERS coronavirus outbreaks, each originated in animals. Most animal viruses are quickly eliminated by human defences. But it takes just one new viral strain and a vulnerable human host to catalyse an entirely new disease outbreak...