COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is passed from animals to humans. These viruses generally appear in our species due to human behavior, including using exotic species such as pangolins as food. Other zoonotic diseases include HIV, Ebola, SARS and Anthrax.
COVID-19 is suspected to have originated in bats then passed through another mammal – perhaps a pangolin – to humans, possibly from a ‘wet market.’ Wet markets are live animal markets commonly found throughout the world. Conservationists have long lobbied for the end of wet markets and trade in exotic species. The markets are often criticized for the animals being held in cramped and inhumane conditions, which can lead to the spread of disease. The 2002 SARS outbreak was suspected to have originated in a wet market.
There are rumors that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, wildlife markets in China may be collapsing, as is the trade in some endangered species in some parts of Africa. As well, the Chinese government have implemented temporary bans on medicinal wildlife products and wildlife products for non-consumption (as there were after the SARS outbreak). This could be one small light in the global pandemic, but without continued global pressure, the trade may resume in spite of the colossal toll of COVID-19 across the world.
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