As the battle against COVID-19 rages, the world can expect to see other diseases that pass from animals to humans emerge, according to a new UN report, which maintains that there is still time to head off potential zoonotic pandemics.
‘Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission’ identifies seven trends driving the increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases, including a growing demand for animal protein, unsustainable farming practices and the global climate crisis.
It also sets out 10 practical steps that nations can take right now, including expanded research into zoonotic diseases, improved monitoring and regulation of food systems, and incentivizing sustainable land management practices.
In particular, the report recommends that governments adopt a “One Health” approach that brings together public health, veterinary and environmental expertise to prevent and respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks.
Preventing the Next Pandemic is a joint effort by the UN Environment Programme and the International Livestock Research Institute, both based in Nairobi.
“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.
As the report explains, COVID-19 is only the latest in a growing number of disease, which – including Ebola, MERS and West Nile fever – whose spread from animal hosts into human populations has been intensified by anthropogenic pressures, or human impact on the environment.
Welcoming the report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a new ambitious framework to protect and sustainably use biodiversity to be adopted.