SENATOR Lindsey Graham is calling for China to shut down “wet markets” that sell bats, cats, dogs and other animals for humans to eat.
Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said on Tuesday the country needs to close such venues to prevent the spread of deadly diseases.
“What can China do to help the world? Shut those markets down,” Graham told Fox News.
It has been suspected that a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, considered ground zero of the world’s outbreak, is to blame for the coronavirus.
Evidence suggests it originated in bats, which infected another animal that spread it to people at a market, although scientists are still trying to determine the source.
Graham said he plans to write letters to the World Health Organization and the Chinese ambassador asking them to close such markets after it was reported they were still operating.
“These are open-air markets where they sell monkey, they sell bat,” the senator said. “We think this whole thing started from the transmission from a bat to a human.”
He added he doesn’t believe the coronavirus “came from a Chinese military lab, but these wet markets are gross, they’re just absolutely disgusting, selling exotic animals that transmit viruses from animals to human beings.”
“Those things need to shut down.”
Graham said previous viruses also started in wet markets, “where you intermingle all kinds of exotic animals — it’s just really a gross display of how you prepare food.”
“Wet markets” are a series of stalls that sell fresh vegetables and fruits, live fish, chickens and other meats.
They are named after the melting of ice used to preserve goods and the washing of floors to clean blood and entrails.
“You’ve got live animals, so there are feces everywhere,” Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, which works to protect wildlife and public health from emerging diseases, told The Associated Press.
“There’s blood because of people chopping them up.”
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, in Wuhan, was closed in January after the coronavirus spread.
The market advertised dozens of species such as giant salamanders, baby crocodiles and raccoon dogs that were often referred to as wildlife, even when they were farmed.
Of the 33 samples from the market that tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said 31 were from the area where wildlife booths were concentrated.
The Wuhan market was also like many other wet markets in Asia and elsewhere, where animals are tied up or stacked in cages
China cracked down on the sale of exotic species after the 2002 SARS outbreak — which killed nearly 800 people — was linked to markets selling live animals.
The ban was later lifted and the animals reappeared.
SARS and the current coronavirus aren’t the only diseases in people traced back to animals.
In Africa, the killing and sale of what is known as bushmeat is thought to be a source for Ebola.
Bird flu likely came from chickens at a market in Hong Kong in 1997. Measles is believed to have evolved from a virus that infected cattle.
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