Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, introduced on May 19 legislation to end the sale of high-risk wildlife species in live animal markets for human consumption, a practice that has been tied to previous outbreaks of novel human diseases.
The Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act requires the U.S. government to identify and shut down live wildlife markets around the world that pose risks to public health and to increase global capacity for zoonotic disease prevention, surveillance and response.
In accordance with the “One Health” approach, which emphasizes the interconnection of human, animal, and environmental health, the legislation directs the U.S. Department of State, USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify which species and practices in live wildlife markets are most likely to ignite a zoonotic disease outbreak and to leverage international diplomacy to close such markets. The president is also given authority to sanction nations that continue to harbor high-risk wildlife markets. Lastly, the bill directs agencies to coordinate their approach to zoonotic disease preparedness, minimize the human-wildlife interface by protecting ecosystems and reduce demand among food insecure communities that currently depend on wildlife.
“The close and unnatural contact between humans and wildlife poses a serious risk for outbreak of new diseases like the one we are dealing with today,” said Coons. “Our priority right now is to recover from the current crisis, but we also need to take the right steps to ensure that we stop the next pandemic before it starts. I’m proud to work with Senator Graham to introduce this legislation that will give the United States the tools to better combat outbreaks of zoonotic diseases in the future.”