World Health Organization (WHO) Ethiopian Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press briefing on Covid-19 Photograph:( AFP )
Scientists suspect, but have not proven, that the new coronavirus passed to humans from bats via pangolins
The World Health Organization on Tuesday called for a halt to the sale of live wild mammals in food markets to prevent the spread of disease.
"Animals, particularly wild animals, are the source of more than 70 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, many of which are caused by novel viruses. Wild mammals, in particular, pose a risk for the emergence of new diseases," WHO said in a statement.
It said some of the earliest known cases of Covid-19 had a link to a wholesale traditional food market in Wuhan in China, with many of the initial patients stall owners, market employees or regular visitors to the market.
Scientists suspect, but have not proven, that the new coronavirus passed to humans from bats via pangolins, a small ant-eating mammal whose scales are highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine.
The interim guidance was drawn up alongside the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
"The guidance calls on countries to suspend the sale of captured live wild mammals in food markets as an emergency measure," the WHO said.
"Animals, particularly wild animals, are the source of more than 70 percent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, many of which are caused by novel viruses. Wild mammals, in particular, pose a risk for the emergence of new diseases," it said.
"Traditional markets, where live animals are held, slaughtered and dressed, pose a particular risk for pathogen transmission to workers and customers alike," said the guidance.
It also called on governments to close sections of food markets selling live wild mammals unless adequate risk assessments were in place.
Some of the earliest COVID-19 infections were found in people who had exposure to Wuhan’s seafood market, where bats, snakes, civets and other wildlife were sold. China temporarily shut down all such markets in January, warning that eating wild animals posed a threat to public health and safety.
(With inputs from agencies)