Biosurveillance of markets and legal wildlife trade needed to curb pandemic risk: Experts

  • Almost 90% of the 180 recognized RNA viruses that can harm humans are zoonotic in origin. But disease biosurveillance of the world’s wildlife markets and legal trade is largely absent, putting humanity at significant risk.
  • The world needs a decentralized disease biosurveillance system, experts say, that would allow public health professionals and wildlife scientists in remote areas to test for pathogens year-round, at source, with modern mobile technologies in order to help facilitate a rapid response to emerging zoonotic disease outbreaks.
  • Though conservation advocates have long argued for an end to the illegal wildlife trade (which does pose zoonotic disease risk), but the legal trade poses a much greater threat to human health, say experts.
  • Governments around the world are calling for the World Health Organization to create a pandemic treaty. Wildlife groups are pushing for such an agreement to include greater at-source protections to prevent zoonotic spillover.

Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down Wuhan’s wildlife markets in 2020, it was common to see dozens of species and hundreds of wild animals crammed into cages, stacked one on top of the other.

A walk through the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market revealed king rat snakes (Elaphe carinata), bamboo rats (Rhizomys sinensis), Amur hedgehogs (Erinaceus amurensis), raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and hog badgers (Arctonyx albogularis) peering out from wire and glass cages. Marmots (Marmota himalayana), sold for food, commanded more than $25 per kilogram ($11 per pound). Hedgehogs cost just $2 per kilo (90 cents a pound). All held the possibility of being a vector for zoonotic disease.

Source: Biosurveillance of markets and legal wildlife trade needed to curb pandemic risk: Experts

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