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Future pandemics: Travel, intensive farming, deforestation… How do our lifestyles expose us to viruses?

SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian flu, Zika, Covid-19, HIV, monkey pox… Our way of life, zoonoses, diseases transmitted from animals to humans, have multiplied in recent years, raising the risk of new pandemics emerging.

“The interface between humans and animals has become quite unstable,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency department, a few days ago. “The factors for disease emergence and amplification have increased,” he said.

Monkeypox, the latest example

We just saw this with monkeypox, but not only, he warns. The monkey pox — “monkeypox” in English — caused by a virus transmitted to humans by infected animals — often rats — is the latest example of the multiplication of these zoonoses.

These are infectious diseases that vertebrates can transmit to humans. Some eventually become specifically human, such as Covid-19. According to the World Organization for Animal Health, About 60% of emerging diseases are of zoonotic origin.

Appearing thousands of years ago, as man intensified his interactions with animals, they have greatly increased in frequency in the last twenty or thirty years.

Intensive breeding, travel…

In question, AFP Marc Elliott, head of the Institut Pasteur’s Discovery of Pathogens Laboratory, underlined “the intensity of travel, which allows them to spread more quickly and uncontrollably”.

occupying a large area of ​​the earth, Humans also contribute to disturbing ecosystems and promote virus transmission.

get up Factory farm thus increasing the risk of spreading pathogens between animals. Wildlife trade also increases human exposure Germs they are likely to carry.

Deforestation and climate change

intensifying deforestation, he, Risk of contact between wildlifepets and human population.

“When we deforest, we reduce biodiversity; We’re losing animals that naturally control viruses, which allows them to spread more easily,” Benjamin Roche, a biologist at the Institute for Research for Development (IRD), a zoonoses expert, told AFP.

Climate change will force many animals to leave their ecosystems and flee for more habitable land.A study published in Nature at the end of April warned. However, by mixing further, the species will further transmit their viruses, encouraging the emergence of new diseases potentially transmissible to humans.

“We need better surveillance of both urban and wild animals, so we can detect when a pathogen has jumped from one species to another,” said study co-author Gregory Albury, an environmental health expert at Georgetown University in the US. . “And if the recipient host is urban or close to humans, we should be particularly concerned.”

The study paints a futuristic “network” of viruses that jump from species to species and grow as the planet warms.

“Today we have simple and fast methods of investigation that allow us to respond quickly to the emergence of new viruses”, assures Mark Elliott of the Pasteur Institute. “We are able to develop vaccines very quickly”, as we have seen with Covid-19.

“get ready”

but “A whole line of new diseases could emerge, potentially dangerous. We have to be prepared,” Professor Eric Favre, a specialist in veterinary infectious diseases at the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom) and the International Livestock Research Institute (Kenya), warned.

This means, according to him, “an emphasis on the public health of the population” in the most remote areas. “Better study the ecology of these natural areas to understand how different species interact”.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, the concept of “One Health” has been put forward: it promotes a multidisciplinary and global approach to health problems with close links between human health, animals and the environment. Global environmental conditions.

France also launched the international initiative “Prezod” in 2021, which aims to prevent the risk of zoonotic outbreaks and epidemics by strengthening cooperation with the most affected regions of the world.

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