Fragmentation of Ecosystems and COVID-19

The year has been disrupted by a great plague – Corona Virus (COVID-19) – the largest in scope and proportion following the Spanish Flu that had killed a staggering 100 million people across the globe in 1918-1919. COVID-19, like the other previous airborne viruses, is highly contagious infecting the lungs.

Image: Hepatitis NSW

COVID-19, originated in Wuhan Province in China last year, is suspected to have come from a wet market selling animal meat infected by pathogens of disease-stricken bats.

Experts at the forefront of pandemic have reiterated zoonotic diseases come from human intrusion into animal habitats, including deforestation and ecosystem fragmentation and alteration. Animal farming, growing population, and frequent interactions with livestock also create an environment for a pathogen spillover that are circulating in wildlife animals to infect humans and vice versa.

Ecological drivers of pathogen spillover are recurrent — whether it is airborne, vector, or sexually transmitted. Over the decades, these spillovers come from birds, cows, monkeys, camels, pigs, mosquitoes – from birds flu to mad cow, dengue or malaria, Zika, HIV/AIDS, and the rest. The century has witnessed the spillover of avian influenza like SARS and MERS.

Governments, international organizations, and businesses are all willing to work out to look for that holy grail to contain spillovers. It requires huge investment in public health mapping out master plans including the discovery of a new vaccine. But instead of looking for a cure, humanity has to work together to prevent recurrent outbreaks and to minimise the impacts.

The UN’s Global Centre for Adaptation said:

The COVID-19 pandemic has tragically exposed the risks humanity faces and how unprepared we are to respond. People’s health, well-being, and livelihoods are all affected. These threats are multiplied by the growing impacts of the climate crisis — more extreme storms, droughts, heat waves, food crises, and diseases — which have not stopped. Vulnerable populations are hit hardest: The pandemic could drive 100 million more people into extreme poverty by the end of this year.

Here’s a Call to Action for a Climate-Resilient Recovery from COVID-19.

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