Cat-eaters may get, spread SARS
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2003:
GUANGZHOU–Laboratory studies of Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome directed by virologist Albert D.M.E. Osterhaus of the
Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, published in the October 30
edition of the British journal Nature, demonstrate that cats and
ferrets could potentially carry the disease from filthy live markets
Osterhaus said his experimental goal was simply to find out
if either cats or ferrets could be used as a laboratory model for
SARS. His findings imply, however, that cats raised for human
consumption may become a SARS vector–especially if the cats are
caged at live markets near whatever as yet unidentified wildlife
species is the primary SARS vector.
It is business as usual again in the notorious live markets
of Guangzhau, China, capital of Guangdong province and also the
reputed global capital of eating dogs, cats, and wildlife.
On October 20, a year after SARS emerged from the live
markets, eventually killing at least 916 people worldwide,
Guang-zhou authorized local restaurants to resume serving palm
civets, six of whom were found to be carrying SARS last May. SARS
antibodies were also found in a ferret badger and a tanuki.
Chinese national vice minister of health Huang Jiafu pledged
on a visit to Hong Kong that, “If civets are confirmed to be the
source of SARS, we will definitely ban exports,” not reassuring in
view that there is little open demand for civets in Hong Kong, while
Hong Kong residents with a taste for wildlife typically visit
Guangdong to indulge.
Any disease they might acquire in China could quickly spread,
whether or not any of the infected animals came to Hong Kong.
CNN senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy returned to the
Guangzhau live markets in November to tape a SARS retrospective.
Guided by Animals Asia Foundation president Jill Robinson and
publicist Annie Mather, Chinoy and his crew “were clearly shaken by
the high volume of cruelty inflicted upon both wild and domestic
animals– frankly the worst that Annie and I have seen in nearly 20
years, and worse than pre- SARS,” Robinson told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
SARS has not recurred in Guangdong– yet–but other zoonoses
associated with the live markets have erupted. On Nov-ember 2, for
example, the Haifeng County Disease Control Center in the Guang-dong
city of Gongping issued an alert about an outbreak of hepatitis-A
that has been tentatively traced to drinking a beverage containing
“Rabies killed 312 people in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous
Region in the south from January to September 2003, a 152.9% rise
over the total number of rabies cases in 2002,” the Regional
Department of Health said in November. Guangxi
Diseases Prevention and Control Center deputy chief Yang Jinye
asserted that, “The increase in pet ownership in Guangxi was the
major cause of the rapid rise in rabies.” There are about 6.2 million
dogs in Guangxi, Yang Jinye said, of whom fewer than 20% have been
immunized against rabies.
Not acknowledged was that the vast majority of the dogs in
the region are not pets at all, but rather are raised for meat.
Dogs raised for meat are customarily not vaccinated. Chinese
officials have argued that vaccinating dogs raised for meat is
unnecessary, because unlike most pet dogs, they are kept penned,
unable to wander.
Dogs from many different small breeders are typically bunched
for sale and transport, however, and if even one dog has rabies,
among a pen of dozens, the disease can swiftly be transmitted to all