For millennia, the “bat virus” they inhabited the forests of West Africa, India, South America and other parts of the world. However, they were very little threat to humanity… Until today.
According new analysis of Reuters data, also today more and more people invade the habitats of bats at least 113 countriesthe risk of a new virus emerging to infect humans is increasing, as bat-borne pathogenic strains are an “epidemiological minefield”…
Bats are associated with many of the deadliest epidemics that have occurred in the last half century, including the pandemic coronaviruswhich is estimated to have killed at least 7 million people and has its “roots” in a family of bat-borne coronaviruses.
Examine where the next pandemic could appearThe agency analyzed two decades of disease incidence data as well as environmental data to identify the parts of the planet most vulnerable to “zoonotic spread(a term used for the jump of a virus from one species to another). Viruses jump from bats to humans through a proxy serverlike a pig or a chimpanzee, or more directly through human contact with bat urine, droppings, blood or saliva.
Reuters reporters spoke to dozens of scientistsread extensive academic research and traveled to countries with large bat populations to learn how human destruction of wilderness areas amplifies the risk of a new pandemic.
The survey revealed a global economic system in conflict with nature, endangers human health as bat-rich forests are cleared to make way for farms, mines, roads and other types of development.
The seven conclusions of the investigation
- Reuters identified more than 9 million square kilometers on Earth where conditions in 2020 were ripe for the spread of a virus, which is transmitted by bats and could trigger a new pandemic. These areas, which he named “jump zones”span the globe, covering 6% of Earth’s land mass. it is mainly about in rapid urbanization tropical regions (which harbor a large population of bats).
- Almost 1.8 billion people lived in areas with high risk of transmission as of 2020. That’s 57 percent more people living in drop zones than two decades earlier, raising the chances of a deadly bat virus spreading. Besides, these people live closer together, increasing the chances of a disease outbreak becoming a fast-spreading global pandemic.
- The Reuters analysis also found high risk in areas like Porcelainwhere the Covid-19 appeared, the neighbor Peoplewhere scientists have identified the closest relatives of the species responsible for the current pandemic, the Indiawhere half a billion people live in “jump zones” and the Brazilwhich has the most land at risk of any country, as the Amazon runs rampant.
- “The catalyst for disease outbreaks is not the behavior of bats,” the scientists argue, “but ours.” thirst for resources – iron ore, gold, cocoa and rubber- leads to uncontrolled development in “wilderness areas” and increases the risk of global pandemics through increased contact with animals. Areas called “drop zones” they have lost 21% of their tree cover over nearly two decadestwice the world rate.
- This kind of “pressure” on once remote forest lands allows viruses to spread and mutate as they jump between animal species and ultimately humans. the deadly nipah virus during the last decades it was transmitted from Asian bats to pigs and from pigs to humans. More recently it has been shown that the Nipah virus can infect humans directly through contact with the bodily fluids of bats.
- Humanity is destroying vital habitats before scientists can study them. The development not only brings humans into closer contact with pathogens that could have pandemic potential, but also removes secrets that nature may hold that could be invaluable to science. For example, the ability of bats to live with many viruses without succumbing to many of them, which can be fatal to other mammals, could generate important knowledge to create vaccines, medicines or other innovations.
- Governments and companies do not seem to take the aforementioned risk seriously. in the rich bat Guineahe Sierra Leonehe Liberiahe Ivory Coast and the Ghana, where Reuters found the risk of a pandemic to be among the highest in the world. Pending applications for mining and similar projects are expected to double the area already used for this purpose, bringing the total to 400,000 square kilometres, an area larger than Germany. Nearly a third of this expansion will take place in existing “jump zones,” where the risk of disease spread is already high.
As Reuters points out, although these countries require mining companies to assess the potential environmental damage that their new projects may cause, neither require that the risk of disease spread be assessed.
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