Sourced from Sky News by Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — In an unprecedented move, the World Health Organization (WHO)-Philippines is discouraging the sale of live animals at food markets, saying the suspension of such could be considered as an emergency measure that could help curb the spread of the coronavirus from animals to humans.
The WHO statement came after a team of experts visited Wuhan in China to investigate the origins of Covid-19 and they reported that the most likely scenario is that the virus originated in bats were spread to another unidentified animal and then passed on to humans.
The organization also disclosed in a separate report that animals—particularly wild animals—are the source of more than 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans.
They added many of these are caused by novel viruses that have not been previously been recorded.
The report stated: “Wild mammals, in particular, pose a risk for the emergence of new diseases. They come into markets without any way to check if they carry dangerous viruses.
“There is a risk of direct transmission to humans from coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine, mucus, feces, or other body fluids of an infected animal, and an additional risk of picking up the infection from contact with areas where animals are housed in markets or objects or surfaces that could have been contaminated with such viruses.”
A study sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences has, in fact, confirmed that the deadly Covid-19 virus was closely related to a strain that exists in bats, which would be the ‘native host’.
In the study, researchers also found that bats are (actually) hosts for many other strains of coronavirus but they added that Covid-19 must have passed through another yet-to-be-identified species known as an ‘intermediate host’.
And a second study conducted by medical virologists fingered snakes as the possible culprit.
The report was immediately brushed aside, however, by other experts who said the guilty party was probably a mammal, as was the case with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, which came from the civet, a small nocturnal animal prized in China for its meat and known in the Philippines as ‘musang’.
Still, researchers at the South China Agricultural University pointed to the endangered pangolin, a mammal whose scales are used in Chinese medicine and locally known in the Philippines as ‘balintong’, as the ‘missing link’ between bats and humans.
This species of anteater was one of the wild animals sold at the Huanan market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, to which most of the first known cases of Covid-19 were linked.
WHO officials noted that “traditional markets play a central role in providing food and livelihoods” around the world. They added that banning the sale of live wild animals would help to protect the health of both consumers and workers.
Meanwhile, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s technical response, revealed in a virtual news conference that vaccinations alone are not enough to combat Covid-19.
Coronavirus restrictions were eased in parts of the United Kingdom early this week with shoppers returning to high streets and drinkers visiting pub gardens in England and non-essential retailers reopening in Wales.
Reacting to this development, Dr. Van Kerkhove urged caution, saying: “We need headlines around this public health and social measures, we need headlines around the tools that we have right now that can prevent infections and save lives.
“We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now (and) the trajectory of this pandemic is growing.” (AI/MTVN)