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Snakes, civets, dogs, bamboo rats … the market menu where the Chinese epidemic began – Health Insurance


Pablo M. Diez

Shanghai correspondent

Updated:

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Snakes, crocodiles, civets, porcupines, bamboo rats, wolf pups, dogs, ostriches, peacocks … So up to a hundred species, a real zoo was served in the Huanan fish market in Wuhan, where the new pneumonia coronavirus has been discovered that has already claimed 80 lives in China, almost all during the last week. Suspecting that said coronavirus comes from bats and would have mutated in snakes before passing to the human being, the authorities have banned the trade and consumption of wild animals, quite popular in China.

Due to its supposed medicinal properties and even aphrodisiacs, not proven by science, live specimens of exotic species that delight the Chinese. Because of its taste for the fresh, live fish are sold in supermarkets and restaurants that are slaughtered and cooked instantly.

But all that can be finished as of now because this epidemic, which has already infected 2,800 people and frightens the world, it is not the first that emerges from an animal market in China. Between 2002 and 2003, SARS (acute and severe respiratory syndrome) killed 774 people in about thirty countries after having originated in southern China, where they left the highest number of fatalities along with Hong Kong. The coronavirus of SARS, which is from the same family as the current one, also it came from bats and mutated in the civets that were sold in a market in Guangzhou (Guangdong).

Although the authorities promised to curb the trade in wild animals, and many of them were removed from restaurants and markets in major cities, the custom has continued to be extended due to the lack of controls and the lucrative smuggling of prohibited species. With the animals caged together with each other in poor hygienic conditions, in these markets their feces and urine are mixed with blood and water and the breeding ground is created so that new viruses can be transmitted that can be transmitted to humans.

“Consumers should fully understand the health risks of eating wild animals, avoid game meat and eat healthier ”, warned this Sunday the Ministry of Agriculture along with the Special Administration for Market Regulation and Forestry. These last two will be responsible for the fulfillment of the veto preventing the trade of wild animals and quarantining their farms.

According to the newspaper “South China Morning Post”, the decision echoes the petition Friday of 19 leading scientists, who advocated on the Weibo social network for “the elimination of consumption and trade of wild animals.” A measure they considered urgent because the last deadliest epidemics have had animal origin: the SARS, bird flu and the MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). “Controlling or even eliminating the food of wild animals and their trade is not only necessary for ecological protection, but also of great significance to reduce public health risks,” warned the group of experts.

Although environmental organizations salute the measure, they remember that the ban must be permanent and effective so that wild animals do not return to the markets after the epidemic. To monitor the fight against the disease and encourage doctors in Hubei, the province with almost 60 million inhabitants Quarantined as the source of the outbreak, Prime Minister Li Keqiang has visited his capital, Wuhan, on Monday. “You are doing everything possible to save lives,” he has praised the doctors at Jinyintan hospital, as state television has shown. As the medical staff is overwhelmed and a doctor has already passed away infected, he reminded them that “when you are turning all your efforts to save lives, you also have to protect yourself.”