Adeela Hameed

Wet Markets and Pandemics: The Fatal Interweave

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With the world fighting against coronavirus and its associated strains, what has come to limelight is the nucleus of most virus-related diseases. The hub, epicentre, headquarters of all virus harmful to humans; the infamous Wet Markets. Zoonotic diseases, that begin from animals and affect the human species with almost zero mortalities in other species, find refuge in wet markets. And from there, these begin to wreak havoc as is seen nowadays.

The basic idea of a wet market is to supply fresh produce to consumers. Usually restaurants or households buy frozen food, like fish, meat, pork, variety of sea-creatures, wild animals that are ‘supposedly’ safe to eat, from supermarkets in the western world and in many parts of Asia as well. However, regions with wet markets don’t have to rely on frozen food, which many consider stale or non-fresh. The wet markets supply all kinds of animals, dead or alive, to customers. The list is perpetual. Many can’t afford to buy red meat, pork, chicken and other varieties of meat that are considered costly. Where do they find refuge? Wet markets! Supplying rats, scorpions, bats, snakes, porcupines, pangolins, meerkats, and other smaller rodents, these markets are a safe haven for many. People usually queue, early in the morning, to buy fresh meat from these markets. Not just the poor lot, you can easily run into well-off customers buying exotic, wild animals to satisfy their curiosities and relish on new cuisines, not realizing the doom they bring home.

This case of Covid-19, the coronavirus, that has brought our world to its knees, is just a little example of the threat other varieties of micro-organisms have in store for humans at these wet markets. For consumption and enjoyment, wild animals are not reliable. It is because of a plethora of parasites they may have been exposed to in the wild. In their natural habitat, these infected animals might have recovered or died, and that would have been the end of it. However when introduced into wet markets for human consumption, the virus or other pathogens find new hosts to survive. Humans! We might not have as well a developed immune system as the original host to flush out infestations. Or we might have to wait for a couple of mutations to set in for a sturdy defence mechanism to fight off deadly virus. But, at present, our body is not well-equipped to deal with novel diseases. Considering the coronavirus pathogen, which also is newfound, the rate at which humans are falling ill makes uncharted territories of pathogens even more apocalyptic. What is bound to happen, as a result, is increased pandemics similar to or more lethal than what we are amidst right now.

The finality of our decisions, lifestyle choices, adamant disruptive behaviours, of being a selfish recluse without care for fellow human beings and for that matter other creatures, led to this doom. With the infestation curve increasing in most countries, it’s time to think aloud and voice opinions about the fate of wet markets. Now is the time to relinquish unhealthy quests, this insufferable need to dominate, and end pandemics, this and the forthcoming ones, once and for all.

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