In a new study by the United Nations (UN), it was stated that there are about 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in nature, and half of them have the potential to infect humans and trigger new outbreaks like Covid-19. The researchers stated that all epidemics in the world so far have occurred due to human activities such as climate change, deforestation and urbanization, and warned that the number of pandemics will increase in the coming years if urgent action is not taken. However, it was stated in the report that future epidemics will cause an annual economic loss of $ 1 trillion.
According to a new report released by the United Nations Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform (IPBES), all pandemics that have occurred in the world to date have their origins in microbes carried by animals. However, their emergence is entirely due to human activities.
Researchers explained that they estimate that there are about 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in nature, and half of them have the potential to infect humans and trigger new epidemics.
The team of 22 scientists said in their report that almost a third of the “zoonotic” diseases spread by animals are caused by the loss of forests and are caused by close contact between wildlife and humans. The researchers said that animals such as bats and mice that developed after such destruction were more likely to carry worrying diseases. Accordingly, since the species barrier in front of about five viruses is eliminated every year, it becomes ready to directly infect humans.
Experts stated that in order to prevent future epidemics, humanity must reduce activities that lead to biodiversity loss, such as deforestation, livestock production, and wildlife trade.
Peter Daszak, president of IPBES and EcoHealth Alliance, said in a press release, “There is no big mystery about the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic or any other epidemic. The same human activities that accelerate climate change and biodiversity loss also trigger the risk of pandemics. “Its expansion and intensification, unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature. This then increases contact between wildlife, livestock, viruses and humans. This is the road to pandemics.”
However, researchers warned that intervention after new outbreaks emerged was a “slow and uncertain way” based on public health measures and the development of new vaccines and therapeutics, as experienced by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was stated that both the large amounts of casualties and the serious damage experienced in the global economy will be repeated.
On the other hand, the authors of the report calculated that by July 2020, the total global cost of the Covid-19 outbreak was around $ 8 to 16 trillion. Social distancing and travel restrictions damaged industries globally at $ 5.8–8.8 trillion. Past pandemics also did not come without a significant economic cost. For example, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 cost the world about $ 53 million, and the Zika virus outbreaks in South America and the Caribbean about $ 18 billion between 2015-2017.
The IPBES report warned that future outbreaks also have the potential to cause $ 1 trillion in annual economic damage. It was reported that the cost of reducing the risk of future pandemics is estimated to be approximately 100 times less than the cost of responding to such crises and therefore ‘strong economic incentives for transformative change’ should be provided.