Nations Urged to Take Active Measures to Prevent Further Zoonotic Diseases

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Governments around the world are urged to take more active steps to prevent future outbreaks caused by zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola and MERS.

In a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the rising trend of zoonotic diseases – caused by viruses originating from animal hosts that spread into the human population – is driven by the degradation of the natural environment resulting from human activities.

The report identifies seven of these trends, among which are land degradation, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction and climate change.

“The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

“Pandemics are devastating to our lives and our economies, and as we have seen over the past months, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most. To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment,” she added.

The report offers ten recommendations, with the One Health approach – which involves uniting public health, veterinary and environmental expertise – identified as the optimal means to prevent and respond to future zoonotic outbreaks and pandemics.

These recommendations include expanding scientific enquiry into zoonotic diseases; strengthening monitoring and regulation practices associated with zoonotic diseases;  incentivizing sustainable land management practices; and supporting the sustainable management of landscapes and seascapes.

The report titled ‘Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission’ was released on World Zoonoses Day on 6 July 2020, commemorating the work of French biologist Louis Pasteur who was responsible for creating the first vaccines for rabies, a zoonotic disease.

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