An analysis in Science Advances has established that protecting wildlife could help prevent pandemics and save money. The report suggests that global leaders and policymakers should change their approach to zoonotic viruses to prevent the widescale damages caused by pandemics.
Each year, an average of 3 million people die from zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are those that pass from wildlife to humans. The recent analysis shows that stopping wildlife destruction that leads to human-animal contact could cost less than dealing with zoonotic diseases. Researchers say that preventing nature destruction could cost the world about $20 billion a year, which is just 10% of the economic damage caused by the diseases.
The paper criticizes governments and policymakers that only focus on handling the outbreak instead of prevention. “That premise is one of the greatest pieces of folly of modern times,” said the study’s lead author Professor Aaron Bernstein of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University. To address this problem, the paper has a three-point proposal.
Among the proposed actions are global surveillance of viruses in wildlife, stringent control of hunting and wildlife trade and stopping deforestation. The researchers say these measures would not only help prevent zoonotic viruses but also fight the biodiversity and climate crises. Bernstein says that the world should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and correct how issues are handled moving forward.
“Our salvation comes cheap [because] prevention is much cheaper than cures,” Bernstein said. “If Covid-19 taught us anything, it is that we absolutely cannot rely on post-spillover strategies alone to protect us. Spending only five cents on the dollar can help prevent the next tsunami of lives lost to pandemics by stopping the wave from ever emerging, instead of paying trillions to pick up the pieces.”
The analysis doesn’t just focus on COVID-19. Additional zoonotic diseases cited in the analysis include multiple bird flu outbreaks, Ebola, and Zika, among others.
Via The Guardian
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