Better surveillance of pathogens, better management of wildlife trade and hunting, along with reduced deforestation, are three measures proposed by a group of scientists to prevent future pandemics.
Researchers at Harvard University, in the United States, explained their ideas in an article, published in the scientific journal Science Advances, in which they argue that these measures would help to prevent the spread of diseases from animals to humans, which could help prevent future pandemics and provide important benefits.
The annual cost of these “primary prevention of the pandemic” actions is around 20 billion dollars (17.5 billion euros), which represents less than 10% of the economic costs due to emerging infectious diseases.
“Tests, treatments, and vaccines can prevent deaths, but they don’t stop the spread of viruses around the world and may never stop new pathogens from appearing,” said study leader Aaron Bernstein of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Bernstein said that “spending just five cents on every dollar can help stave off the next tsunami of lives lost due to pandemics by taking cost-effective steps to stop the wave from ever-rising, rather than paying billions to fix things.”
Currently, 3.3 million people are expected to die annually from zoonotic viral diseases, with an estimated loss value for these lives of at least US$350 billion (€306 billion) and a further US$212 billion. (185 billion euros) in direct economic losses, the article says.
The authors point out that prevention of transmission at source is rarely addressed when policymakers and multilateral organizations discuss pandemic risks,
They also coin a new paradigm – “primary pandemic prevention” to define actions that eliminate new diseases before they spread, rather than actions that address disease outbreaks after they occur.
The researchers suggest that a global virus discovery project be created to identify potential zoonotic pathogens and that sufficient funding and staff be made available to monitor the wildlife trade.
They also advocate reducing deforestation, noting that reducing tree loss in the Amazon is one of the “cornerstones” of primary prevention of the pandemic, but recalling that smaller forests are also important sources of emerging pathogens due to their proximity to densely populated settlements.
Making these investments in prevention has benefits for human health, the environment, and economic development, according to Marcia Castro, another of the authors of the text and from the Harvard Chan School.
Source: With Agencies