An article written in Nature in May indicated that future pandemics can be reduced or even eliminated if we stop spillovers.
Spillovers are when pathogens that originate in animals jump onto or into people. According to this Nature journal, spillovers have triggered every viral pandemic that has occurred since the start of the twentieth century.
Additionally, an August 2021 analysis of disease outbreaks indicate that the yearly probability of pandemics could increase several-fold in the coming decades because of human-induced environmental changes.
The challenge to our stopping spillovers is our desire for economic and global advancements and our curiosity with life.
For around $20 billion per year, spillovers could be greatly reduced according to this Nature article. This amount per year is needed to “reduce global deforestation in certain hotspots for emerging infectious disease, drastically curtail and regulate trade in wildlife, and greatly improve the ability to detect and control infectious diseases in farmed animals.”
This $20 billion per year investment tag to prevent spillover seems like a large amount. But according to this article in Nature, $20 billion is a small investment compared to the millions of lost lives and trillions of dollars spent in the most recent pandemic in 2020. Additionally, this price tag is one-twentieth of the statistical value of the lives lost yearly due to viral diseases that have “spilled” over from animals since 1918. This price tag is also less than one-tenth of the economic productivity that has been erased per year according to an article written in Science Advances entitled “The Costs and Benefits of Primary Zoonotic Pandemics.”
Despite the data indicating the high cost of spillover, many international efforts to defend against future outbreaks fail to prioritize the prevention of spillover.
The World Health Organization formed the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response panel to investigate and ensure that any future infectious-disease outbreaks don’t become another pandemic. This panel released a hefty report in May 2021 but that report only mentioned wildlife and deforestation minimally.
This article in Nature is urging the powers to be to develop three landmark international endeavors to make prevention of spillovers a central focus in preventing the next pandemic.
Spillovers occurs more often when there are increased opportunities for animals and humans to make contact. For example, in wildlife trade, in animal farming or when forests are cleared for farming, mining and roads. Spillovers also are increased when infected animals with viruses are housed in cramped conditions or not fed properly.
Four actions that could be taken to reduce the risk of spillovers.
—protect tropical and subtropical forest
—ban or heavily regulate commercial markets and trade of live wild animals that pose health risks to the public
—-prioritize biosecurity when dealing with farm animals
—-improve people’s health and economic security especially in areas that are hotspots for the emergence of infectious disease.
According to this article in Nature, such actions could reduce our dependence on containment measures like human disease surveillance, contact tracing, lockdowns, vaccines, and therapeutics. Nothing is wrong with these interventions but most times they are expensive and usually too late.
Currently, I am part of a group where we are asked to simulate a future where the next pandemic is from a tick bite that infects humans causing them to be allergic to meat. This syndrome is called AGS, i.e. Alpha-gal syndrome. As absurd as this simulated idea may seem, there are current signals that indicate this threat may be a real possibility.
We must seize today to prevent future pandemics and save lives before they are in danger. Not everything in life is about how much money can be made.
Spillover prevention might be overlooked because researchers of animal and environmental pathogens are being funded by companies who are looking only to make tangible profits not save lives. Additionally, many people who work in public health have very limited, if any, training in ecology, wildlife biology, conservation and anthropology.
If spillovers is a major contributor to the pandemics we have been having either domestically or internationally, we need to take this matter more serious, put partisanship or countryship to the side, and let’s do something about the proplem together. We need to not just be reactive to pandemics, we need to engage in more directed efforts to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER
La Shon Y. Fleming Bruce a/k/a SHONSPEAKS is a blogger, certified brain health specialist, speaker, and lead creator of freeyourthinkingmind.com. I am also a lawyer and managing member of The Fleming-Bruce Law Firm, P.L.L.C. If you want to check out more of my writings that may not be released on this site, go over to my website at freeyourthinkingmind.com
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