Some progress has been made in shutting off much of the formerly robust wildlife trade related to meat consumption. But virtually nothing has been done to address potential threats from fur farms and operations raising wildlife for use in Chinese pharmaceuticals, leaving open the potential for fur and pharmaceutical operations to be a future source of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19. It also increases the potential for these industries to serve as a hub for illicit wildlife trade.
If China does not tackle zoonotic disease seriously and systematically, say advocates of the One Health approach to simultaneously protecting the health of animals, people and the environment, future outbreaks stemming from the wildlife trade or captive breeding are certain. Some could have devastating global impacts.
Mohamed Ezzat El Zowalaty, a veterinary scientist and microbiologist at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, says that cultural perspectives are one of the main issues countries have in combating emerging infectious diseases. Those perspectives lead to incongruities between how scientists say we should reduce the risks of those diseases and the policies used to address them.
“We can say there’s no real strict implementation of biosecurity, and even if some of those strict protocols are there, there can be violations,” he says. “One of the answers to China’s [specific problems] is all the factors combined: the environment, the huge [animal and human] populations, and population density that allows the infectious agents to transmit easily and cross species between animals and people.”