Preventing pandemics costs far less than controlling them
We can pay now or pay far more later. That's the takeaway of a new peer-reviewed study, published Feb. 4 in the journal Science Advances, that compares the costs of preventing a pandemic to those incurred trying to control one.
"It turns out prevention really is the best medicine," said Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, who was co-lead author of the study. "We estimate we could greatly reduce the likelihood of another pandemic by investing as little as 1/20th of the losses incurred so far from COVID into conservation measures designed to help stop the spread of these viruses from wildlife to humans in the first place."
A smart place to start, the study shows, would be investing in programs to end tropical deforestation and international wildlife trafficking, stop the wild meat trade in China, and improve disease surveillance and control in wild and domestic animals worldwide.
COVID, SARS, HIV, Ebola and many other viruses that have emerged in the last century originated in wild places and wild animals before spreading to humans, the study's authors note. Tropical forest edges where humans have cleared more than 25% of the trees for farming or other purposes are hotbeds for these animal-to-human virus transmissions, as are markets where wild animals, dead or alive, are sold.
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