How to stop a pandemic before it starts
Government spending on pandemic prevention has been on the decline for 15 years. Now, there’s a renewed interest on Capitol Hill to increase spending on reforms which would help the United States and other countries respond quicker to future pandemics.
This would include:
1) Higher public trust of institutions like the CDC, FDA and WHO can establish behavioral norms like wearing masks;
2) Early alert systems like airport screening and temperature checks;
3) Real time data and testing;
4) More PPE in inventory;
5) Regular pandemic simulations at the federal level;
6) Trained first responders to transport sick people safely.
But scientists think there’s a better way. If we want to really prevent another pandemic, they argue, we should prevent it at the source: animals.
And as human civilization expands, the potential for a pandemic becomes more pressing. The more we interact with animals, the more likely we are to contract a virus from them.
Up to three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, or come from human-to-animal contact, according to the CDC.
Resolving this will take buy-in from policymakers around the globe. Two broad strategies could make a difference:
1. Reduce deforestation: Deforestation is likely the single biggest source of new zoonotic diseases. When humans clear forests for agricultural timber or living, they’re also encroaching on wildlife habitats.
2. Regulate wildlife trade: Marketplaces where people sell wild animals, either for food or as pets, have a high potential for viral exposure. The stress of transport and sale can weaken the animals’ immune systems, making disease spread even easier.
Solutions aren’t cheap, but neither are the alternatives. Estimates show the cost of preventative measures is at least 10 times cheaper than the damages from Covid-19, not to mention saving thousands of human lives.
“If COVID-19 has made one thing clear, it is that the cost of even the boldest initiative to prevent future pandemics is orders of magnitude less than the price we pay once a pandemic occurs,” writes the Coalition to Prevent Pandemics at the Source.
Full article from POLITICO here.