With coronavirus taking a heavy toll and also disrupting the economies across the globe, a new report initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme has warned of further outbreaks if the governments did not take active measures to prevent other zoonotic diseases from crossing into the human population.
The report, Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic Disease and How to Break the Chain of Transmission, has put forth ten recommendations for preventing further outbreak of Zoonotic diseases. The report was prepared in collaboration with International Livestock Research Institute.
The report has put forth One Health Approach, which unites public health, veterinary and environmental expertise for preventing as well as responding to zoonotic disease outbreaks and pandemics. The One Health approach will help governments, businesses and civil society achieve health for people, animals and environment.
The second recommendation is De Risking Food System. Noting that several policy reports continue to focus on the global public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report says that more evidence-based scientific assessments were needed. One should examine the environmental and zoonotic context of the present pandemic, as well as the risk of future zoonotic disease outbreaks.
The report has called to fast-track the development of knowledge and tools to help national governments, businesses, the health sector, local communities and other stakeholders—especially those with limited resources—to reduce the risk of future pandemics.
Pointing out that about 60 per cent of human infections have an animal origin, the report said that some 75 per cent “jump species” from other animals to people in all new and emerging human infectious diseases. It said that most of the zoonoses happen indirectly. For example, it can happen through the food system.
The report said that frequency of pathogenic microorganisms jumping from other animals to human beings was increasing because of unsustainable human activities. It said that pandemics such as coronavirus outbreak are a predicted outcome of how people source and grow food, trade and consume animals, and alter environment.
Underlying that wildlife was the most common source of emerging human disease, the report said that domesticated animals may be original sources, transmission pathways, or amplifiers of zoonotic disease. “Such linkages—as well as the interconnectedness with issues such as air and water quality, food security and nutrition, and mental and physical health—should inform policies that address the challenges posed by current and future emerging infectious diseases, including zoonoses,” the report said.
Despite the greatest burden of zoonotic disease is borne by poor people, it also affects everyone, with monetary losses of emerging infectious disease much greater in high-income
Under policy options, the report envisaged ten options. They are (i) raise awareness of health and environment risks and prevention; (ii) improve health governance, including by engaging environmental stakeholders; (iii) expand scientific inquiry into the environmental dimensions of zoonotic diseases; (iv) ensure fullcost financial accounting of the societal impacts of disease; (v) enhance monitoring and regulation of food systems using risk-based approaches; (vi) phase out unsustainable agricultural practices; (vii) develop and implement stronger bio security measures; (viii) strengthen animal health (including wildlife health services); (ix) build capacity among health stakeholders to incorporate environmental dimensions of health; and (x) mainstream and implement One Health approaches. These policy options are discussed in detail in Section Five of this report.
Meanwhile, United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Inger Andersen said that COVID-19 has caused profound damage to human health, societies and economies in every corner of the world. “It may be the worst, but it is not the first. We already know that 60 per cent of known infectious diseases in humans and 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Ebola, SARS, the Zika virus and bird flu all came to people by way of animals,” she said.
“As we seek to build back better after COVID-19, we need to fully understand the transmission of zoonoses, the threats they pose to human health and how to minimize the risk of further devastating outbreaks. This requires an ambitious line of enquiry, in which this report, Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, is a crucial first step,” Andersen said.
The report also notes seven human factors that had aided the emergence of zoonotic diseases. Increasing human demand for animal protein, unsustainable agricultural intensification, unsustainable utilization of natural resources accelerated by urbanization, increased use and exploitation of wildlife, land use change and extractive industries; changes in food supply, climate change and increased travel and transportation.
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