Escaping the 'Era of Pandemics': experts warn worse crises to come; offer options to reduce risk

Highlights: Intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention; risk drivers include deforestation, wildlife trade; tax high pandemic-risk activities; 540,000 - 850,000 unknown viruses in nature could infect people; economic impacts 100x prevention costs

Newswise — Future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than COVID-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases, warns a major new report on biodiversity and pandemics by 22 leading experts from around the world.

Convened by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) for an urgent virtual workshop about the links between degradation of nature and increasing pandemic risks, the experts agree that escaping the era of pandemics is possible, but that this will require a seismic shift in approach from reaction to prevention.

COVID-19 is at least the sixth global health pandemic since the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and although it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, like all pandemics its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities, says the report released on Thursday. It is estimated that another 1.7 million currently 'undiscovered' viruses exist in mammals and birds - of which up to 850,000 could have the ability to infect people.

"There is no great mystery about the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic - or of any modern pandemic", said Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance and Chair of the IPBES workshop. "The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment. Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. This is the path to pandemics."

Pandemic risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas, and through measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions. This will reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases, says the report.

"The overwhelming scientific evidence points to a very positive conclusion," said Dr. Daszak. "We have the increasing ability to prevent pandemics - but the way we are tackling them right now largely ignores that ability. Our approach has effectively stagnated - we still rely on attempts to contain and control diseases after they emerge, through vaccines and therapeutics. We can escape the era of pandemics, but this requires a much greater focus on prevention in addition to reaction."

"The fact that human activity has been able to so fundamentally change our natural environment need not always be a negative outcome. It also provides convincing proof of our power to drive the change needed to reduce the risk of future pandemics - while simultaneously benefiting conservation and reducing climate change."

The report says that relying on responses to diseases after their emergence, such as public health measures and technological solutions, in particular the rapid design and distribution of new vaccines and therapeutics, is a "slow and uncertain path", underscoring both the widespread human suffering and the tens of billions of dollars in annual economic damage to the global economy of reacting to pandemics.

Pointing to the likely cost of COVID-19 of $8-16 trillion globally by July 2020, it is further estimated that costs in the United States alone may reach as high as $16 trillion by the 4th quarter of 2021. The experts estimate the cost of reducing risks to prevent pandemics to be 100 times less than the cost of responding to such pandemics, "providing strong economic incentives for transformative change."

The report also offers a number of policy options that would help to reduce and address pandemic risk. Among these are:

 

  • Launching a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention to provide decision-makers with the best science and evidence on emerging diseases; predict high-risk areas; evaluate the economic impact of potential pandemics and to highlight research gaps. Such a council could also coordinate the design of a global monitoring framework.
  • Countries setting mutually-agreed goals or targets within the framework of an international accord or agreement - with clear benefits for people, animals and the environment.
  • Institutionalizing the 'One Health' approach in national governments to build pandemic preparedness, enhance pandemic prevention programs, and to investigate and control outbreaks across sectors.
  • Developing and incorporating pandemic and emerging disease risk health impact assessments in major development and land-use projects, while reforming financial aid for land-use so that benefits and risks to biodiversity and health are recognized and explicitly targeted.
  • Ensuring that the economic cost of pandemics is factored into consumption, production, and government policies and budgets.
  • Enabling changes to reduce the types of consumption, globalized agricultural expansion and trade that have led to pandemics - this could include taxes or levies on meat consumption, livestock production and other forms of high pandemic-risk activities.
  • Reducing zoonotic disease risks in the international wildlife trade through a new intergovernmental 'health and trade' partnership; reducing or removing high disease-risk species in the wildlife trade; enhancing law enforcement in all aspects of the illegal wildlife trade and improving community education in disease hotspots about the health risks of wildlife trade.
  • Valuing Indigenous Peoples and local communities' engagement and knowledge in pandemic prevention programs, achieving greater food security, and reducing consumption of wildlife.
  • Closing critical knowledge gaps such as those about key risk behaviors, the relative importance of illegal, unregulated, and the legal and regulated wildlife trade in disease risk, and improving understanding of the relationship between ecosystem degradation and restoration, landscape structure and the risk of disease emergence.

     

Speaking about the workshop report, Dr. Anne Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of science and expertise to inform policy and decision-making. Although it is not one of the typical IPBES intergovernmental assessments reports, this is an extraordinary peer-reviewed expert publication, representing the perspectives of some of the world's leading scientists, with the most up-to-date evidence and produced under significant time constraints. We congratulate Dr. Daszak and the other authors of this workshop report and thank them for this vital contribution to our understanding of the emergence of pandemics and options for controlling and preventing future outbreaks. This will inform a number of IPBES assessments already underway, in addition to offering decision-makers new insights into pandemic risk reduction and options for prevention."

###

The full report is available here: http://www.ipbes.net/pandemics

Executive summary: http://bit.ly/PandemicReportExecSum

The report, its recommendations and conclusions have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by the member States of IPBES - it represents the expertise and perspectives of the experts who participated in the workshop, listed here in full: https://ipbes.net/biodiversity-pandemics-participants

The IPBES workshop report is one of the most scientifically robust examinations of the evidence and knowledge about links between pandemic risk and nature since the COVID pandemic began - with contributions from leading experts in fields as diverse as epidemiology, zoology, public health, disease ecology, comparative pathology, veterinary medicine, pharmacology, wildlife health, mathematical modelling, economics, law and public policy.

The report is also strongly scientifically substantiated, with almost than 700 cited sources - more than 200 of which are from 2020 and 2019 - which offers decision-makers a valuable analytical snap-shot of the most up-to-date data currently available.

17 of the 22 experts were nominated by Governments and organizations following a call for nominations; 5 experts were added from the ongoing IPBES assessment of the sustainable use of wild species, the assessment on values and the assessment of invasive alien species, as well as experts assisting with the scoping of the IPBES nexus assessment and transformative change assessments.

Resource persons who contributed information but were not authors of the report included experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Often described as the "IPCC for biodiversity", IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body comprising more than 130 member Governments. Established by Governments in 2012, it provides policymakers with objective scientific assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet's biodiversity, ecosystems and the contributions they make to people, as well as the tools and methods to protect and sustainably use these vital natural assets. For more information about IPBES and its assessments visit http://www.ipbes.net




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 4204
access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 9-Dec-2020 4:00 PM EST Released to reporters: 3-Dec-2020 4:50 PM EST

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 9-Dec-2020 4:00 PM EST The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 9-Dec-2020 4:00 PM EST Released to reporters: 3-Dec-2020 3:50 PM EST

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 9-Dec-2020 4:00 PM EST The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Newswise: 250384_web.jpg
Released: 3-Dec-2020 3:05 PM EST
Study finds COVID-19 hindering US academic productivity of faculty with young children
University of Tennessee Health Science Center

The academic productivity of higher education faculty In the United States in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) fields with very young children suffered as a result of the stay-at-home orders during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the University of Florida College of Medicine, and the University of Michigan School of Medicine.

Released: 3-Dec-2020 2:50 PM EST
Kidney disease leading risk factor for COVID-related hospitalization
Geisinger Health System

An analysis of Geisinger's electronic health records has revealed chronic kidney disease to be the leading risk factor for hospitalization from COVID-19.

Newswise: Identity Verification During the Age of COVID-19
Released: 3-Dec-2020 2:25 PM EST
Identity Verification During the Age of COVID-19
Homeland Security's Science And Technology Directorate

S&T's Biometric Technology Rally focused on the ability of acquisition systems and matching algorithms to recognize travelers without asking them to remove their masks, thereby reducing risk for frontline workers.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 10-Dec-2020 11:00 AM EST Released to reporters: 3-Dec-2020 2:20 PM EST

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 10-Dec-2020 11:00 AM EST The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 7-Dec-2020 4:45 PM EST Released to reporters: 3-Dec-2020 2:10 PM EST

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 7-Dec-2020 4:45 PM EST The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Released: 3-Dec-2020 2:00 PM EST
Testosterone May Contribute to More Severe COVID-19 Disease
American Physiological Society (APS)

New research suggests that levels of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone could contribute to infection risk and severity of COVID-19.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 10-Dec-2020 12:00 PM EST Released to reporters: 3-Dec-2020 1:50 PM EST

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 10-Dec-2020 12:00 PM EST The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.


Showing results

110 of 4204

close
1.20909