Portman advocates to close global unregulated wildlife markets

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and a bipartisan group of his colleagues this week sought enhanced federal cooperation with America’s international partners in stymying future zoonotic disease outbreaks by closing down unregulated wildlife markets.

While the origin of the novel coronavirus into humans has yet to be confirmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals, including several recent viral outbreaks, according to an April 7 letter Sen. Portman and his colleagues sent to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

For example, SARS, HIV, Ebola, MERS, and H5N1 influenza all started in animals before spreading to humans, according to the lawmakers’ letter.

“Poorly regulated markets where live animals and wildlife parts and products are sold provide significant opportunities for the human-animal interactions that lead to disease transmission,” wrote Sen. Portman and six other senators, including U.S. Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE).

“We encourage the department, in collaboration with our international partners and with other relevant U.S. government agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to work to close down unregulated wildlife markets that pose a threat to public health, combat the broader trade in illegal wildlife and wildlife products, and strengthen food safety and security around the world,” the senators wrote.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, the country announced a decision to permanently ban trade in wildlife for human consumption, a move also taken by the Prime Minister of Vietnam, according to Sen. Portman’s letter.

“Such decisions should be welcomed, encouraged, and supported to ensure their effective implementation,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, markets where both live animals and wildlife parts and products are sold continue to pose public health threats elsewhere around the world, as well as contributing to wildlife trafficking,” should be closed down.