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Need stricter meat industry rules to prevent another Covid — 100 doctors write to Harsh Vardhan

The letter, by doctors who are part of a WHO initiative, seeks a ban on wet markets and closure of slaughterhouses that do not follow FSSAI guidelines.

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New Delhi: Hundred doctors from across India, who are part of the World Health Organization’s ‘One Health’ initiative, wrote a letter to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan Wednesday demanding stricter meat industry regulations in order to avoid another pandemic in future.

Stating how Covid-19 is thought to have spread from an animal host to humans at a wet market in China’s Wuhan, the letter seeks a ban on such marketplaces.

It also demands closure of slaughterhouses that do not follow Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) guidelines or norms under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001.

“Several studies reported that banning the storage of live poultry in live markets at least for a short period of time for overnight drastically reduced the ability to isolate the avian influenza viruses by 84 per cent compared with the standard procedures. Such studies show that a permanent ban on the live markets will help in the prevention of such zoonotic diseases,” the letter stated.

One Health is a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach by WHO for designing and implementing programmes to achieve better public health outcomes.

Doctors from reputed institutes such as AIIMS, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Maulana Azad Medical College, among others, work in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), to endorse the One Health approach in India.

Varda Mehrotra, executive director at FIAPO, said, “The One Health approach is not only a smarter and more holistic initiative, but, with the unified voice of Indian healthcare professionals, also a powerful catalyst for change. The goal behind our collaboration with doctors is to facilitate a safe and sustainable world that is free of zoonotic viruses and a more robust health infrastructure.”

Dr Rajanikant Nayak, a member of the Odisha-based Krupasindhu Ayurvedic Seva Sadan and one of the signatories in the letter, said, “It is high time we move towards a scientific approach that recognises the unmitigated potential of connecting human, animal and environment wellness. These are no longer detached, but related to each other.”

Also read: Here’s how scientists know the coronavirus came from bats and not a lab

‘Ban consumption of wildlife’

Along with wet markets, the letter also urges stringent rules to end unsustainable intensive animal farming and ban on consumption of wildlife.

Doctors under the One Health approach work towards endorsing the undeniable connection between the environment, human and animal health.

Dr Anil Kumar, an Ayurvedic medical officer at the Department of Ayush, Health and Family Welfare, Odisha, pointed out how the collaboration between multiple organisations has the potential of bringing tremendous change in healthcare systems.

“The introduction of 2019-nCoV into livestock animals could pose a potential threat to both agriculture and public health. Emergence of COVID-19, after MERS-CoV and SARS-Cov, represents a third major emergence of a novel coronavirus. It is now time to learn from the lessons of these two previous outbreaks to prevent the spread of further disease from 2019-nCoV,” the letter to Harsh Vardhan also stated.

Also read: China’s fresh meat lovers lament death of live poultry markets


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