Less and less deforestation of the tropics, together with a significant limitation of trade and wildlife might, surprisingly, be one of the most cost-effective ways of preventing pandemics from taking place in the future, according to a new study that has been performed. In this article, you will find out why.
Approximately once every two years, a virus goes from an animal host to a human host, thus creating a pandemic such as COVID-19. These sort of events are known as spillovers and they become more and more common once humans get closer and closer to the natural world. These spillover events have caused the worst pandemics that occurred in recent times, including SARS, HIV, Ebola, and possibly the new coronavirus as well.
There are many factors involved in whether a spillover becomes a global pandemic or not. Some of these factors include the actual traits of the virus and the response that humans have to it. There are biologists, however, that argue that being prepared for a pandemic means that we should make sure that spillovers are not that likely. Ways through which we can reduce spillover events include battling deforestation, limiting the wildlife trade that occurs, both on the official and on the black market, and keeping an eye on farmed animals.
The Big Picture
Interventions to reduce spillover events could cost between 20 billion and 30 billion USD per year, according to a study that was performed in the academic journal Science on 24 July. This amount of money, despite sounding like a lot on paper, is nothing when compared to the global cost of COVID-19, which is estimated to exceed 5 trillion USD. This loss is calculated regarding the loss of gross domestic product, but it is for 2020 only. We can only imagine how much more efficient it is to reduce spillovers if we also account for the long-term economic damage.