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The Next Pandemic
Scientists believe more pandemics are on the way. As people start to encroach on areas that were previously wild, it is inevitable that animal viruses will spread and infect human beings. There are 1.6 million viruses that animals carry so as we destroy forests and jungles and come into physical contact with these animals, the risk of exposure to their viruses increases.
It is known that deforestation has caused an increase in infectious diseases and this is especially true in Africa and South America. Global warming has worsened the problem by aiding disease carrying insects to multiply and move northward into areas where they were previously never known to exist. Thus, added to fear of infections through contact with wild animals there is also the fear of being infected by insects that also carry these animal viruses.
There are, however, efforts being made to combat the next pandemic by finding out where it is lurking. In South America there are scientists taking samples of bats, rodents and other primates to create a biobank of the viruses that exist in the Amazon rainforest and also determine how they circulate. This biobank could prove useful in identifying the source of a zoonotic disease that has infected a human being and consequently speed up the effort to control the spread of this disease.
On an international level, there is the Global Virome Project which aims at providing a catalog of all the possible viruses that could infect human beings. Some zoologists however, believe that such an effort is far too ambitious and costly and claim that a more effective measure would be to provide safety measures for those most at risk of contracting theses zoonotic diseases, that is, those living on the edges of rainforest and jungles and those working with wild animals such chimpanzee hunters , wet-market workers, mink farmers, etc.
Thus far the focus of zoonotic spillover has been on Africa and Asia but there is growing attention being paid to the Amazon rainforest. Since 2020 roughly 5 million acres of rainforest have been lost and current projections indicate that by 2050 over 40% of what has remained will also be lost. As a consequence, the animals in the rainforest will be forced find food where humans are and the risk of infection from animals that carry these diseases sky rockets.
Trying to prevent the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, however, is no easy matter. The current Brazilian government supports cattle farming, logging and mining in the Amazon and this policy has also found some support from the people living on the fringes of the rainforest. The reason for this support is that it provides a livelihood for them so unless these residents are given an alternative means of support, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the imminent outbreak of deadly pandemics is a foregone conclusion.