Damage to biodiversity could lead to next pandemic

CAPE TOWN- A recent report conducted by the United Nations (UN) has warned against human damage to biodiversity as it is estimated that up to 850,000 undiscovered viruses could be transferred to humans and have the ability to infect people.

Animals carry microbes that can be transferred to people during encounters such as land clearing, deforestation, intense agriculture and the wildlife trade which is putting humans into closer contact with wildlife.

The UNs’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), says to avoid future pandemics, humans should urgently transform our relationship with the environment.

Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance and Chair of the IPBES workshop, said there is no mystery about the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment. Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. This is the path to pandemics.”

SEE ALSO: PROTECT ENVIRONMENT, PREVENT PANDEMICS, SAYS UN

According to the report, pandemic risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity. There needs to be greater conservation of protected areas and measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions. This will reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases.

The Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to have cost an estimated of US $8-16 trillion globally, while the costs of preventing the next pandemic are likely to be 100 times less than that. Daszak says this provides strong economic incentives for transformative change”.

The report offers a number of policy options that would help to reduce and address pandemic risk. Among these inlcude launching a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention to provide decision-makers with the best science and evidence on emerging diseases.

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