STOP CHINESE WET MARKETS

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After the SARS outbreak in 2003, which was traced to a wet market in the southern Guangdong Province, a temporary ban on wet markets and the wild-animal industry were put in place. In July of that year, the World Health Organization declared the SARS virus contained, and in August the Chinese government lifted the ban.

Wet markets are found the world over, typically open-air sites selling fresh meat, seafood, and produce. The meats often are butchered and trimmed on-site. Markets in China have come in for justifiable condemnation because of the way they’ve evolved, commingling traditional livestock with a wide variety of wild animals, including exotic and endangered species. Many are quite unsanitary, with blood, entrails, excrement, and other waste creating the conditions for disease that migrates from animals to people through virus, bacteria, and other forms of transmission. Such “zoonotic diseases” that have emerged from China and other regions of the world include Ebola, HIV, bird flu, swine flu, and SARS.


There should be permanent closure of the wet markets, given the government’s obvious inability or unwillingness to regulate them. Such a comprehensive approach would be a reversal of decades of government policy and market practice, but when we get through this crisis and the toll it will take on the world, we will owe it to the memory of those we lose that there be a global, sustained push to see these practices ended, everywhere.