Land-use Change Will Potentially Increase Zoonotic Disease Spread

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Maxwell Bernstein | July 1, 2020

Researchers from the University of the West of England and the University of Exeter identified a link between environmental exploitation and the potential for increased spreading of diverse zoonotic diseases.

Zoonotic diseases come from pathogens that spread from animals to humans. This includes many viruses such as the H1N1 swine flu virus, Ebola, West Nile, Zika, and Sars-CoV-2, the virus that is causing the current global COVID-19 pandemic.  

The researchers’ paper, published in Environmental Science & Policy, says that “…a key contributory factor in the increase in number and diversity of zoonotic diseases has been the extent to which humans are increasingly interacting with, and impacting upon, ecosystems, given the close relationships between human, animal and environmental health.” 

The researchers cited EcoHealth Alliance’s study, which showed that land-use change, the process where humans transform natural land, is linked to 31% of emerging infectious diseases including HIV, Ebola, and Zika virus. The COVID-19 pandemic likely started from a bat, according to the CDC

“The need to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic ongoing at the time of writing creates an opportunity for systemic policy change, placing scientific knowledge of the value and services of ecosystems at the heart of societal concerns as a key foundation for a more secure future,” the researchers said. 

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