Environmental issues could make pandemics more likely and less manageable

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A new study by researchers at the University of Exeter has found that environmental factors can play an important role in future pandemics.

According to their research, healthy and functioning ecosystems can prevent consumers from contracting viruses transmitted by animals. However, as many ecosystems are destroyed, the number of pandemics is likely to increase and will continue to be difficult to manage.

“Ecosystems naturally limit the transfer of disease from animals to humans, but this service decreases as ecosystems degrade” noted researcher Dr Mark Everard. “At the same time, degradation of ecosystems compromises water security, limiting the availability of adequate water for good hand hygiene, sanitation and disease treatment. The risk of disease cannot be dissociated from the conservation of ecosystems and the security of natural resources.

Link the environment and the risk of disease

To understand how ecosystems are closely linked to the spread of disease, the researchers used the Drivers-Pressure-State change-Impact-Response (DPSIR) model. This allowed them to examine three main factors: the role ecosystems play in the spread and treatment of disease and how to protect this role, the ability to treat those affected by the spread of infection and the control of the disease. spread of infection between humans. .

Researchers have learned that the incidence of pandemics is likely to increase due to the way humans interact with the natural world. In addition, this same relationship with the environment can affect the resources available to treat such infections.

The study found that the environment and the spread of disease are linked in several ways. Not only are humans interacting with animals more than ever before, but climate change, overproduction of livestock, and deforestation all contribute to animals spreading infections to humans at a faster rate.

The researchers also explained that less attention is paid to preserving ecosystems as the population increases. This alone is of concern, but these factors also weigh on the drinking water supply. As infection levels increase and the supply of drinking water decreases, treating and containing a rapidly spreading virus will only become more difficult in the future.

Learn from the mistakes of the past

According to researchers, the current COVID-19 pandemic offers lawmakers the perfect opportunity to adopt policies that will protect the environment, which in turn can protect consumers.

“The speed and scale with which radical measures have been taken in so many countries to limit the health and financial risks associated with COVID-19 demonstrate that a radical change of the system would be possible as well in order to deal with other global existential threats, such as the climate. the urgency and collapse of biodiversity, provided the political will is there to do it, ”said researcher Dr David Santillo.


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