Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is believed to have originated in a wildlife market, in Foshan municipality, Guangdong Province, China, in November 2002.
These wildlife markets were and continue to be supplied with wild animals from a still expanding regional network of illegal, international wildlife trade.
These kind of markets are in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Laos.
Covid-19 is believed to have originated in Wuhan, Hubei province at the Huanan Seafood market.
Fish, shellfish, wildlife, snakes, birds and several different types of meat and carcasses were sold at this market.
Patrons of the Huanan Seafood Market were probably infected with covid-19 as early as early November.
Black market wildlife trafficking is a major illicit business in China and Southeast Asia.
In China it is estimated to be a $74 billion industry, involving a workforce of 14 million people.
After the SARS epidemic the Chinese government took no effective action to stop the wild animal markets, the illegal wild animal trade.
Since the onset of Covid-19 the Chinese government issued a nationwide but temporary ban on all trade in wild animals, including their transport and sale in markets, restaurants and via online platforms.
The government order warned that officials would “severely investigate and punish” violators and provided a hotline for citizens to report infractions.
The Chinese Government has drafted legislation to end “the pernicious habit of eating wildlife.”
And yet, there is a big loophole in this law that allows for the trade of wild animals for medicinal purposes.
Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are the most trafficked mammal in the world.
It is possible they played a role in the creation of the novel coronavirus.
Technically the international trade of pangolins is illegal.
They are a protected species in China.
And yet, pangolin meat and blood are considered delicacies on the black market.
And sales of their scales for use in traditional Chinese medicine remain legal for certain hospitals and pharmacies.
These live wild animal markets and the illicit wild animal business is a perfect incubator for novel pathogens.
They are a recipe for disaster.
In wild animal markets, during wild animal smuggling. Many different species of animals are in cramped, squalid, stressful condition.
Their immune systems become seriously impaired.
If there is a viral infected animal, the virus will easily infect other animals of the same species and amplify that infection.
That virus then can pass to another species which may act as an intermediary host and pass it more easily to humans.
“If you have a lot of people and animals in one place viruses are better able to spread between those people and animals. A high population density or more contact between humans and animals will aid spread,” says Dr Erica Bickerton, a coronavirus expert at the Pirbright Institute in the UK.
“All you need is the virus on a surface for the virus to be able to infect a new host. It doesn’t have to be contact between live animals,” she said.
History has repeated itself.
History is repeating itself.
Like SARS, covid-19 is believed to have originated in a wild animal market in China.
As happened in 2002 the Chinese government tried to deny and conceal the outbreak of covid-19, and were fatally, fatefully late in responding.
After SARS, the Chinese government took no effective action regarding wild animal markets or the illicit wild animal trade.
As covid-19 takes it’s terrible, mounting toll it’s still to be seen whether the Chinese government will do anything truly effective in stopping wild animal markets or the illicit wild animal trade.
And if the next pandemic originates in China, the Chinese government, in its current form, will probably respond in the same way as they responded to SARS and covid-19,
with denial, concealment, and fatal, fateful inaction.