How to escape the & # 039; era of pandemics & # 039;? Experts warn of the arrival of worse crises

The coronavirus is at least the sixth global health pandemic in the last century since the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 occurred and, although everything seems to indicate that its origin is linked to microbes carried by animals, its appearance has been driven entirely by human activities. It is estimated that only in mammals and birds there are other 1.7 million viruses that have not yet been discovered and that up to 850,000 could have the ability to infect people. Now, the Intergovernmental Science and Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a body independent intergovernmental made up of more than 130 governments, it warns that "future pandemics will emerge more frequently, spread faster, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than covid-19. Therefore, after an urgent virtual workshop in which they have participated 22 leading experts from around the world, call for a radical change in the global approach to tackling infectious diseases.

"There is no great mystery about the cause of the coronavirus pandemic or any other modern pandemic," says the Dr. Peter Daszak, President of the EcoHealth Alliance and in charge of the IPBES workshop. "The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss they also create the risk of epidemics through their impacts on our environment, "he states and continues:" Changes in the way we use land, the expansion and intensification of agriculture, and unsustainable trade, production and consumption alter nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. This is the path to pandemics. "

According to the report developed after the meeting, the risk can decrease significantly reducing human activities that drive biodiversity loss, through a greater conservation of protected areas and with measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation. This would reduce animal-human contact and would help prevent the spread of new diseases.

"The overwhelming scientific evidence however, points to a very positive conclusion, "says Daszak, explaining that there is an" increasing capacity "in pandemic prevention, but notes that" the way the current one is being addressed largely ignores that capacity "." We still trust be able to contain and control diseases after they arise, through vaccines or treatments. "

We are still confident that we can contain and control diseases after they arise, through vaccines or treatments

The document says relying on responses to disease after its onset, such as public health measures, technological solutions, and rapid design and distribution of new vaccines and therapies, is a "slow and uncertain path". In addition, it causes widespread human suffering and economic damage that affects the world. Thus, experts estimate that the cost of reducing risk and contributing for the prevention can be 100 times less at the cost of responding to a pandemic that has already started.

These researchers have developed a series of measures that would help reduce the imminent risk of more crises:

  • Creation of a intergovernmental council high-level conference on pandemic prevention to provide the best scientific evidence governments when making decisions about emerging diseases, as well as predict high risk areas, assess the economic impact of potential pandemics and highlight gaps in research.
  • That the countries establish common objectives within a international agreement, with clear benefits for people, animals and the environment.
  • Institutionalize the approach to 'One health' in national governments to create a program of prevention, investigation and controll of outbreaks in all sectors.
  • Develop and incorporate evaluations of the health impact of emerging and pandemic diseases in major development projects and land use, while financial support for agriculture should be reformed so that the benefits and risks to biodiversity and health are recognized and explicitly targeted.
  • Ensure that the economic cost of pandemics is factored into consumption, production, and policies and government budgets.
  • Enable changes to reduce consumption rates, global agricultural expansion, and trade that have led to pandemics. This could include taxes or levies about meat consumption, livestock production and other forms of high-risk pandemic activities.
  • Reduce the risks of zoological diseases in the international wildlife trade through a new intergovernmental "health and trade" association; in addition to reducing or eliminating species at high risk of diseases in said trade and preventing the illegal trafficking of species.
  • Value the participation and knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities in pandemic prevention programs.
  • Close knowledge gaps, such as risk behavior, relative importance of illegal and unregulated wildlife trade, and improve understanding of the relationship between degradation and restoration of ecosystems.

"The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of science and experience in informing policy and decision-making," says Dr. Anne Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES. However, the fact that human activity has been able to change the natural environment in such a fundamental way does not always have to have a negative result. "It also provides a convincing proof of our power to drive the change needed to reduce the risk of future pandemics, while benefiting conservation and reducing climate change, "concludes Daszak.