Human Health Is At Risk As Zoonotic Epidemics Spread Uncontrollably

In recent years, the world has witnessed the devastating impact of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19. These diseases, which jump from animals to humans, have become a growing concern in the world of epidemiology. According to a recent study, the ever-increasing trend of animal-to-human viral infections presents a serious threat to global public health.

Zoonotic diseases are infections that can jump from animals to humans.
Photo: Pexels
Zoonotic diseases are infections that can jump from animals to humans.

Alarming Trend in Zoonotic Infections

Published in BMJ Global Health, a comprehensive study analyzing nearly 60 years of epidemiological data reveals an alarming trend in zoonotic infections. This analysis, conducted by researchers from various institutions, highlights the exponential increase in four specific types of animal-to-human infections: Filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg), SARS Coronavirus 1, Nipah virus, and Machupo virus.

“Emerging zoonotic viruses that subsequently spread from human to human are the focus of this analysis because they were the cause of most 20th century pandemics, and account for 60% of all emerging human diseases,” wrote the researchers from US biotechnology organization Gingko Bioworks.

Many zoonotic diseases originate in wildlife, such as bats, rodents, and birds.
Photo: Pexels
Many zoonotic diseases originate in wildlife, such as bats, rodents, and birds.

From 1963 to 2019, these zoonotic diseases have caused a significant number of outbreaks and deaths in 24 countries. In this period, the number of reported outbreaks increased by approximately 5% annually, while reported deaths rose by a substantial 8.7%, Forbes reports. If this trend continues, experts estimate that these pathogens could cause four times as many spillover events and a staggering 12 times as many deaths in 2050 compared to 2020.

Direct contact with infected animals is a common transmission route.
Photo: Pexels
Direct contact with infected animals is a common transmission route of zoonotic disease.

Factors Driving the Increase

Human-driven changes in climate, land use, population density, and connectivity are predicted to contribute to the increasing frequency of animal-to-human viral spillover epidemics, Cosmos Magazine reports. Climate change and deforestation are cited as critical factors in facilitating zoonotic diseases, multiple studies show, as they create an environment where these diseases can more easily cross from animals to humans.

Climate change and deforestation can increase the risk of zoonotic diseases.
Photo: Pexels
Climate change and deforestation can increase the risk of zoonotic diseases.

Urgent Need for Action

The findings of these studies emphasize the urgent need for global efforts to improve our capacity to prevent and contain zoonotic outbreaks. While it’s challenging to predict the magnitude of this threat due to limited empirical data, the increasing trend in zoonotic diseases is clear.

These diseases, once thought of as sporadic occurrences, have become both larger and more frequent, as Weather.com reports.

To safeguard global public health, we must addressing the root causes, such as climate change and healthcare gaps, and enhancing cooperation to mitigate future pandemics.

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