US Senate working to shut down overseas ‘wet markets’ after COVID-19 outbreak


The Capitol is framed through a window in the Russell Senate Office Building as lawmakers negotiate on the emergency coronavirus response legislation, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – With the COVID-19 virus having possible links to wet markets in China, Senators are pushing to have the live-animal food markets shut down.

Rob Portman told on Wednesday that the links between animals and humans to deadly viruses the last few decades have been clear, as well as the links between wet markets and the spread of diseases like SARS and the bird flu.

“I think we should shut them down in countries where they are consistently ignoring the diseases that emerge,” Portman said.

According to, sixty lawmakers from both parties wrote a letter to the World Health Organization, the United Nations and the World Organization for Animal Health in early April stating the markets are a threat to global public health. The letter cited studies in which human interaction with live and dead animals at the markets are “prime transmission locations” for diseases and the lack of regulation and hygiene can be the source of “highly contagious diseases”.

Portman said the first round of legislation focusing on closing wet markets had already been passed, with funding sent to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help countries close the markets.

While China has emerged as a global economic player, much of the country is poor, especially in its western rural half.

“Parts of China, especially rural China, are really impoverished,” Portman said. “That’s where a lot of these markets are at. These places are unsanitary and its where many of these diseases have started.”

Portman said he wanted the World Health Organization to start pushing for the closure of wet markets as policy. He also emphasized he didn’t want people in emerging markets to have to stop eating wild animals but to do so in a more sanitary manner. He made the comparison of people in Ohio hunting deer.

“This is where we can get the WHO to say hey, let’s shut these things down,” Portman said. “We can’t afford the loss of trillions in damages from one future outbreak. You look at SARS, AIDS, or bird flu, these diseases started because of interactions between animals and humans.”

For more information on healthy food markets, visit the WHO website.

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