United Nations releases measures to prevent next pandemic

Cheryl Sanders
July 8, 2020

In addition to acknowledging the devastation of Covid-19, the report highlights other recent examples of "headline-hitting and dramatically destructive novel diseases", including zoonotic influenza (Bird Flu), pandemic human influenza (H1N1), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and others have identified measures countries can put in place to prevent future pandemics.

These include rising demand for animal protein, extraction of natural resources and urbanisation, intensive and unsustainable farming, exploitation of wildlife, increased travel and transportation, food supply changes and climate change.

It says while these diseases emerged in different parts of the world, "they have one thing in common which scientists call zoonotic diseases- infections that jump between animals and humans, some of which leave illness and death in their wake". "We must integrate our responses for human health, animal health, and ecosystem health to be effective", she said.

"To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment", Andersen added.

A United Nations (UN) report warned on Monday of a growing trend of diseases spreading from wildlife to humans and likely due to the degradation of our natural environment.

Some 2 million people die from zoonotic diseases in the developing world each year.

Unite human, animal and environmental health to prevent the next pandemic according to newly published UN Report.

The report cited how COVID-19, which has already caused more than half a million deaths around the world - likely originated in bats - while others have suggested the virus originated in a Wuhan lab. Dams, irrigation and factory farms are linked to 25 per cent of infectious diseases in humans.

A "zoonotic disease" or "zoonosis" is a disease that has passed into the human population from an animal source.

"This was a highly predictable pandemic", said Delia Randolph, ILRI veterinary epidemiologist and lead author of the report.

Climate variability is also influencing the numbers and geographic distribution of species like bats, monkeys and rodents, which are reservoirs of zoonotic pathogens.

The report, released on Monday, identified seven trends driving the prevalence of zoonotic diseases.

"But even in the two decades before the pandemic, the World Bank estimated that zoonotic diseases had direct costs of more than $100 billion", the report reads.

African countries - a number of which have successfully managed zoonotic outbreaks - have the potential to leverage this experience to tackle future outbreaks, ILRI director General Jimmy Smith said. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that COVID-19 alone will cause the global economy to contract by 3 per cent this year, wiping out Dollars 9 trillion in productivity through 2021. Together, the experts can help monitor, control public health threats and learn how diseases spread among people, animals, plants, and the environment.

Numerous recommendations put forward in the report focus on addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis, including incentivizing sustainable land management practices and the developments of alternatives for food security and livelihoods "that do not rely on the destruction of habitats and biodiversity".

UNEP and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are urging governments to adopt an approach called "One Health", which is to attract experts in human, animal and environmental health to combat outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.

Other reports by iNewsToday