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Wild Animal Trading Beneath the New Coronavirus

By Yu Zhang

Image credit: The New York Times

Since the first Coronavirus case was reported on the 8th December 2019, the fearsome disease has spread to 23 countries with 9954 cases worldwide and 213 deaths in China, just as I finish this report. On the 30th January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency, with two Chinese tourists conformed as positive for the Coronavirus in the UK, a day later.

As an important origin of this new outbreak, Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, or the ‘Huanan Market’, in Wuhan is believed to have a relation with the outbreak of Coronavirus. The staff of Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have detected that 33 out of 585 environmental samples gathered from ‘Huanan Market’ test positive for Coronavirus. ‘Huanan Market’ is a comprehensive market, like Kirkgate Market in Leeds, rather than just a seafood market. However, 31 out of the 33 positive samples were gained from the Western area of the market, where many wild animal meat booths are concentrated, making experts suspect the consummation of wild animal meat as a key cause.

It is not the first time that wild animal meat has spread a deadly virus to consumers. Between November 2002 and July 2003, the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China resulted in 774 deaths in 17 countries. Experts proved that the masked palm civet, whose meat is consumed by some people in China, was able to transmit SARS. The tradition of wild animal meat trading in Wuhan means some eaters refuse to learn the lessons from the SARS outbreak; they believe wild animal meat is ‘an unusual healthy food’. Experiences of breeding and selling wild animals are shared on the Internet as a means of getting rich. Some businessmen are exploiting the trend of Chinese traditional medicine to advertise the medicinal value of wild animal meat. All these mistakes increase the risk of the viruses’ outbreak. Besides controlling the Coronavirus, the Chinese government should also consider the misinformed opinions of those encouraging people to try wild animal meat and further its trade.

Recently, ‘Huanan Market’ has been closed and the two Chinese patients in the UK are accepting treatment in Newcastle. The Chinese government is also acting: an emergency speciality field hospital, Huoshenshan Hospital, will start to accept Coronavirus patients on 3rd February. The Chinese military has been mobilized and experts predict cases of the virus in Wuhan to reduce after the 8th February.

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