Coronavirus Threat Looms Large for Low-Income Cities

In our increasingly interconnected world, outbreaks of infectious diseases – such as Ebola, SARS and now the current coronavirus (COVID-19) – can quickly turn from epidemics (spreading rapidly) to pandemics (spreading cross-continent, or globally).

Densely packed urban environments where humans live alongside bats, rodents, birds, pets and domestic animals are especially fertile grounds for the spread of new disease. Here, viruses – or indeed other pathogens – can easily jump from species to species and evolve to be infectious to multiple hosts.

While scientists cannot say for sure where and in what species COVID-19 acquired the ability to infect humans, the outbreak has been traced to a ‘wet’ market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The image of packed humid marketplaces selling dead and live animals, where people bustle down narrow aisles with wet, slippery floors have thrust these traditional markets into the global spotlight.

But are calls to abolish wet markets fair?