China has banned trading of wild animals until the novel coronavirus outbreak is brought under control.

There are more than 6,000 confirmed cases with almost 7,000 more suspected infections and 132 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The source of infection is still unknown.

Most of those sick are in China but more than 50 cases have been reported in 14 other countries. Five of these are in the United States, two in Canada, four each in France and Germany.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is a lot unknown about the newly emerged 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and how it spreads. There is no evidence to suggest animals or animal products imported from China pose a risk for spreading 2019-nCoV in the U.S., according to the agency’s Jan. 29 update.

The agency advised that due to poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures and there is no evidence to support transmission associated with imported goods.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath and may appear two to 14 days after exposure.

Animal source suspected;
person-to-person transmission likely

Coronaviruses cause infection in humans and animals including birds and mammals such as camels, cats and bats. They are zoonotic, which means they transmit between animals and humans. There are currently no vaccines against them.

Coronaviruses can cause illness ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). SARS-CoV was transmitted from civets to humans, and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Genetic sequence data shows 2019-nCoV is a close relative of other CoV found circulating in Horseshoe Bat populations. Other reports have suggested it came from snakes. There is suspicion the outbreak may have had an animal source but subsequent transmission appears to be from person to person.

Investigations were triggered by detection of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. A seafood and animal market in the city was reported as a common exposure by some patients. It was closed for environmental sanitation and disinfection. Samples from the market tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Wash hands, cook food, avoid cross contamination
WHO has issued standard precautionary measures to prevent infection spread including regular hand washing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

The organization has advised against applying any trade restrictions. However, media in Armenia quoted the State Service for Food Safety of Armenia saying it has banned imports of all animal products and raw materials from China and imports of animal products from other countries produced from Chinese raw materials.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) welcomed China’s temporary ban on wild animal trade.

“China’s decision to place a temporary ban on all wild animal trade underscores the need for greater public awareness about not just any associated threats to human health posed by illegal or unregulated wildlife trade, but also its impact on wild populations and on global biodiversity.

“This health crisis must serve as a wake-up call for the need to end unsustainable use of endangered animals and their parts, as exotic pets, for food consumption and for their perceived medicinal value.”

Kate Nustedt, World Animal Protection global wildlife director, also supported the move.

“We hope that this courageous step is made permanent and extended to all wildlife imports and exports, to help prevent any future crises of this nature. There are very simple steps that we can all take to prevent any future outbreaks. Stop buying any wild animals, dead or alive, whether it’s a snake, bird or any other wild species.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is offering face masks following the outbreak spreading a so-called go vegan message.

“Filthy factory farms, slaughterhouses, and meat markets threaten the health of every human being on the planet by providing a breeding ground for deadly diseases like coronavirus, SARS, bird flu, and more,” said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk.

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