No more pandemics to come if environmental issues are not addressed: report


“The risk of a pandemic could be significantly reduced by promoting responsible consumption and reducing unsustainable consumption. “

The report estimates that mammals and birds harbor around 1.7 million undiscovered viruses. Somewhere between 540,000 and 850,000 could infect humans.

More than five new viral diseases emerge each year, of which about three quarters are of animal origin.

The growing human populations that grow in previously uninhabited land, along with the deforestation needed to grow crops, are a big part of the problem. The panel found that about a third of new diseases result from land use changes, agricultural expansion and urbanization.

The wildlife trade, which has more than quintupled in value over the past 14 years, also increases close contact between humans and unknown animals, according to the report. The same is true of climate change, which results in the migration of humans and animals.

“We are part of the animal kingdom,” said report co-author Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio, a Bolivian biologist.

“We can get viruses from animals. What is happening is that all of these human activities bring humans into closer contact with animals that carry these viruses. In the past, we would never have been so close.

It is no longer enough to wait for the emergence of a pandemic and rely on a medical response, the report concludes. This indicates that research is starting to be able to predict where future pandemics will occur, which animals will harbor the virus, and the environmental and economic changes that cause them.

“Pilot projects, often on a large scale, have shown that this knowledge can be used to effectively target viral discovery, surveillance and outbreak investigations,” he says.

The report calls for reform of the way land-use changes are financed to take into account biological risks. Habitat conservation must be strengthened.

People living in viral hotspots need to be made aware of the potential risks. Animals most likely to harbor dangerous viruses should be excluded from the wildlife trade, which also requires higher standards of safety and cleanliness.

Government policies should discourage the consumption of products that lead to deforestation and habitat loss.

“We have a choice now,” said Daszak.

“We can either go on as usual and have more and more pandemics that emerge faster, spread faster, kill more people and crush our economies – or we can move towards pandemic prevention.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 28, 2020.

– Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @ row1960.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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