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UN: Warming planet helps spread pandemics

Message from nature on coronavirus

An Indian patient and his attendant wait at a coronavirus help desk at the Government Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad, India.
An Indian patient and his attendant wait at a coronavirus help desk at the Government Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad, India. (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coronavirus has much in common with other viruses that have caused or threatened major pandemics.

Ebola, bird flu, swine flu, MERS, Rift Valley fever, SARS, West Nile virus, the Zika virus have all caused or threatened major pandemics, with thousands of deaths and billions in economic losses.

But what is more disturbing is that climate change is playing a role in driving new health dangers and proliferating these viruses, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. The group said biodiversity loss from a warming Earth is a key driver in new novel diseases.

On average a new infectious disease emerges in humans every four months and 75% of these are coming from animals.

Scientific evidence suggests that disease epidemics will become more frequent as the climate continues to change because microbes survive in the environment longer with higher temperatures and humidity.

So what can be done? The UNEP says governments must facilitate healthy ecosystems in order to help protect us from diseases.

Destruction of nature is hurting human survival because pathogens spread rapidly when the diversity of species is reduced.

The impact of human activities on ecosystems will need to be addressed to recognize the close relationships between human, animal and environmental health.


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