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Pandemics can be prevented in the future if we stop spillover. A new study has revealed spillover events, in which a pathogen that originates in animals jumps into people, have probably triggered every viral pandemic in the 20th century. It is likely to increase many folds if we do not stop such events. 

Every year, US$20 billion is being invested globally to reduce spillover. “That is a small investment compared with the millions of lives lost and trillions of dollars spent in the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost is also one-twentieth of the statistical value of the lives lost each year to viral diseases that have spilled over from animals since 1918 (see ‘Spillovers: a growing threat’), and less than one-tenth of the economic productivity erased per year," a study published in Nature said. 

Here is how we can prevent spillover

The risk of spillover is much more when there are more opportunities for animals and humans to make contact. Several studies have shown it can be greatly reduced by 4 actions. And here they are: 

  • First, tropical and subtropical forests must be protected. Various studies show that changes in the way land is used, particularly tropical and subtropical forests, might be the largest driver of emerging infectious diseases of zoonotic origin globally, the Nature article pointed out. 
  • Second, commercial markets and trade of live wild animals that pose a public-health risk must be banned or strictly regulated, both domestically and internationally.
  • Third, biosecurity must be improved when dealing with farmed animals. Among other measures, this could be achieved through better veterinary care, enhanced surveillance for animal diseases etc, the article pointed out.
  • Fourth, particularly in hotspots for the emergence of infectious diseases, people’s health and economic security should be improved. People in poor health — such as those who have malnutrition or uncontrolled HIV infection — can be more susceptible to zoonotic pathogens

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