“Many people will suffer two pandemics”

The new outbreak of monkeypox, an endemic disease in central and western Africa, has highlighted the threat posed by zoonoses to humans, a risk that was already made clear by the COVID-19 pandemic, the origin of which was also in the animal world. The World Health Organization warns that a million animal and plant species are in danger of extinction, while ecosystems continue to deteriorate at an accelerated rate due to human activity, which will cause contact with new viruses will intensify in the coming years.

Climate change, deforestation, habitat destruction, species trafficking, intensive agriculture or overexploitation of the oceans have altered the balance of ecosystems, and this loss of biodiversity will have serious consequences not only for the planet, but also for the humanity. Many of the infectious diseases that affect people and that have emerged recently, such as COVID-19, Ebola or AIDS, have been zoonoses, and it is estimated that approximately 75% of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans have an animal origin.

Numerous papers and scientific studies clearly link the loss of biodiversity with an increased risk of zoonoses, and for most researchers the new outbreak of monkeypox is just one more piece of this dangerous puzzle. “The new cases of monkeypox are a voice of alarm that has to serve us so that we do not lower the concern that COVID-19 caused us, because we run the risk of forgetting some of the things that we have learned, which is precisely that we are exposed to the risk of pandemics,” he told RTVE.es Ferdinand ValladaresCSIC ecologist and environmental communicator, who explains that, according to a recently published article, until now the risk of suffering a pandemic throughout a person’s life has been 38%, but in the next two decades this percentage it will double “Which in statistical terms means that many people will suffer two pandemics in our lifetime”.

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For the professor of Animal Pathology John Joseph Badiola“the risk of zoonoses is now much higher”, and the current outbreak is “a new notice that tells us that things are getting ugly“. “The concept of ‘One Health’ is very important, which means ‘One world, one health’. Human health, animal health and environmental health must be grouped together, because if we alter ecosystems, we will definitely have virus transmission problems”, this researcher from the University of Zaragoza told RTVE.es, pointing to mobility and globalization as two fundamental factors that facilitate the spread of pathogens throughout the planet.

In this sense, Ferdinand Valladaresassures that “pandemics, and more specifically epidemics, are as old as humanity. But one of the new factors is precisely globalization, since now the speed and geographic scale in which pathogens can move has increased “.

“Each new species that we come into interaction with poses a risk, because it has its collection of viruses and bacteria, just like us, and sometimes some of those viruses and bacteria cause an infectious disease in the new host. It’s a matter of risk, which increases because it is intertwining with nature, altering ecosystems in which balances between species have been established for thousands of years,” he adds.

Ecosystems continue to deteriorate at an accelerated rate due to human activity. GETTY IMAGES

one health

Amos Garcia Rojaspresident of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology, agrees that the monkeypox outbreak “is an unequivocal sign that we must deepen that concept that the WHO always puts on the table of ‘One health’ -a single health: human health, animal health and environmental health-“. For this epidemiologist, it is “three corners of the same problem that, if we do not address them together, we will never be able to achieve global health.”

The concept ‘One health’ was introduced at the beginning of the year 2000 to designate something that science has known for more than a century: human and animal health depend on each other, and are also linked to the ecosystems of which they are part. Based on this premise, representatives of multiple disciplines (such as doctors, veterinarians, scientists, humanists…) work to achieve this comprehensive approach to health, while warning that there are around one and a half million unknown viruses in wildlife , of which between 500,000 and 800,000 could jump to the human species, causing diseases with pandemic potential, as has been the case with COVID-19.

“From Ecology we support one hundred percent the idea of ​​’One health’, and it is the only way to reverse a tremendous trend in human health, which is that no matter how much medicine progresses, as it is doing, its rate of success is more than neutralized by the rate of environmental degradation,” says scientist Ferdinand Valladares, who explains that we have reached a point where “proportionally more people die from environmental degradation than medicine saves by making progress, and it is the first time that has happened.” “The increase in life expectancy has stopped, and has even started to decline, precisely because no matter how much medicine advances, it cannot compensate for the increase in deaths due to climate change, pollution, pandemics, etc. “, he continues.

Faced with this situation, Valladares defends that Medicine “hybridizes with other disciplines such as Ecology, Sociology, Anthropology and many other sciences that help us address the problem of the environment and the relationship between human beings and nature from a more holistic view“. “The tests, unfortunately, are showing how necessary it is,” he concludes.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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