Health: UN report warns of 1.7 MILLION undiscovered viruses in nature, half of which could infect us

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There are probably about 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in nature, half of which could spill over to infect humans and trigger new pandemics, UN scientists have warned.

In their report, a team of 22 experts said that unless action is taken, pandemics will be more likely to emerge, spread faster, kill more people and cause more economic damage.

A “transformative change” in the way we deal with infectious diseases – shift to a preventive stance – will be needed to escape an “era of pandemics,” they said.

COVID-19 is at least the sixth pandemic to hit since the outbreak of the ‘Spanish Flu’ in 1918, which infected a third of the world’s population and killed 20 to 50 million people.

The expert panel was convened by the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services or IPBES.

There are probably about 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in nature, half of which could spill over to infect humans and trigger new pandemics, UN scientists have warned (stock image)

There are probably about 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in nature, half of which could spill over to infect humans and trigger new pandemics, UN scientists have warned (stock image)

All pandemics to date have originated in microbes carried by animals, but their emergence is entirely due to human activities, the report explained.

Nearly a third of animal-borne ‘zoonotic’ diseases are caused by the loss of forests, which increases the likelihood of close contact between us and wildlife.

And studies have shown that the animals that thrive after such destruction – such as bats and rats – are also most likely to be carriers of worrisome diseases.

Each year, about five diseases cross the species barrier to humans, noting the report “ one of which has the potential to spread and become a pandemic. ”

To prevent future outbreaks, humanity must reduce efforts that drive biodiversity loss, such as deforestation, ranching and wildlife trade, the experts said.

This – which they believe could be achieved by taxing such high-risk pandemic activities – will reduce wildlife, livestock and human contact and the spread of disease.

“There is no major mystery as to the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic – or of any modern pandemic,” said Peter Daszak, IPBES workshop chair and EcoHealth Alliance chair Peter Daszak in a press release.

“The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also create pandemic risks through their impact on our environment.”

Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wild animals, livestock, pathogens and humans. ‘

“This is the road to pandemics,” he concluded.

The report warns that only responding to new diseases after they emerge – relying on public health measures and the development of new vaccines and therapies – is a “ slow and uncertain path. ”

This has the potential, it continued, to cause both widespread human suffering and significant damage to the global economy.

All pandemics to date have originated in microbes carried by animals, but their emergence is entirely due to human activities, the report explained.

All pandemics to date have originated in microbes carried by animals, but their emergence is entirely due to human activities, the report explained.

All pandemics to date have originated in microbes carried by animals, but their emergence is entirely due to human activities, the report explained.

Experts have calculated that the total global cost of the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020 was approximately £ 5.8–11.6 trillion ($ 8–16 trillion) – including costs of £ 4.2–6.4 trillion ( $ 5.8–8.8 trillion) due to social distance and travel restrictions.

Past pandemics have also taken a significant economic toll. For example, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014 cost around £ 38.5 billion, while Zika outbreaks in South America and the Caribbean cost around £ 5-13 billion between 2015 and 2017.

Future outbreaks, the IPBES report warned, could cause annual economic damage on the order of £ 0.7 trillion ($ 1 trillion).

The cost of reducing the risk of future pandemics, the experts said, is expected to be about 100 times less than the cost of responding to such crises, thus providing “strong economic incentives for transformative change.”

To prevent outbreaks, we need to reduce causes of biodiversity loss, such as deforestation and wildlife trade, the experts said.  This, which can be achieved by taxing activities with high pandemic risk, will reduce human contact with wildlife and the spread of disease

To prevent outbreaks, we need to reduce causes of biodiversity loss, such as deforestation and wildlife trade, the experts said.  This, which can be achieved by taxing activities with high pandemic risk, will reduce human contact with wildlife and the spread of disease

To prevent outbreaks, we need to reduce causes of biodiversity loss, such as deforestation and wildlife trade, the experts said. This – which can be achieved by taxing activities with high pandemic risk – will reduce wildlife, livestock and human contact and the spread of disease.

The overwhelming scientific evidence points to a very positive conclusion – we have the increasing ability to prevent pandemics, added Dr. Daszak admits.

But the way we approach them now largely ignores that ability. In fact, our approach has stagnated – we still rely on efforts to control and control diseases after they occur, through vaccines and therapies.

‘We can escape the pandemic era, but besides responding to that, much more attention is being paid to prevention.’

“The fact that human activity has so fundamentally changed our natural environment does not always have to be a negative result.”

“It is also compelling evidence of our strength to drive the change needed to reduce the risk of future pandemics – while mitigating conservation and climate change.”

The full findings of the report are published on the IPBES website

ZOONOTIC DISEASES: THESE ARE VIRUSES THAT ARE USUALLY STARTED IN WILD ANIMALS THAT CAN TRANSFER TO OTHER SPECIES AND SURVIVE

Zoonotic diseases can pass from one type to another.

The infecting agent – called a pathogen – in these diseases can cross the species boundary and still survive.

They vary in potency and are often less dangerous in one species than the other.

To be successful, they rely on long-term and direct contact with different animals.

Well-known examples are the flu strains that have adapted to survive in humans from different host animals.

H5N1, H7N9 and H5N6 are all avian influenza strains originating in birds and infected humans.

These cases are rare, but outbreaks occur when a person has had prolonged, direct exposure to infected animals.

The flu strain is also incapable of passing from human to human once a person is infected.

An outbreak of swine flu – H1N1 – in 2009 was considered a pandemic and governments spent millions developing ‘tamiflu’ to stop the spread of the disease.

Influenza is zoonotic because it can evolve rapidly as a virus and change shape and structure.

There are examples of other zoonoses, such as chlamydia.

Chlamydia is a bacteria that has many different strains in the general family.

This is known to happen with a number of specific strains, for example Chlamydia abortion.

This particular bacteria can cause abortion in small ruminants and, when transmitted to humans, can lead to abortions, premature births and life-threatening illnesses in pregnant women.