A disease expert walks into a live bird market

June 7 is World Food Safety Day and this year we are reminded of a harsh reality: Roughly 600 million people around the world suffer from food-borne illnesses every year, while around 3 million die as a result of contaminated food or water.

Every part of the world is affected, though the worst impacts are felt in low- and middle-income regions like sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Less access to refrigeration and other modern food-preservation technologies doesn’t decrease demand for animal products by consumers, so locally there is value in live animal markets in communities, because of the freshness of the kill.

When we visited a bird market in Phnom Penh with the Pasteur Institute’s Dr. Arnaud Tarantola, it became clear that there may be more than just contamination that poses a threat to all of us.

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