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The links between ecological degradation and emerging infectious diseases

Wildlife Conservation Society:

A WCS special report shows how degradation of ecological systems has significantly increased the overall risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks and has other complex effects on human health.

You can read the full report here.

The authors are WCS’s Tom Evans, Sarah Olson, James Watson, Kim Gruetzmacher, Mathieu Pruvot, Stacy Jupiter, Stephanie Wang, Tom Clements, and Katie Jung.

The report, which draws on detailed case studies, global analyses, modelling, and broad expert consensus, notes that the majority of emerging infectious disease threats are zoonotic, originate from wildlife, and often cause major social and economic impacts. Ecological degradation increases the overall risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks originating from wildlife.

The authors say the key “ingredients” that accentuate the risk of emerging infectious disease spillovers include land conversion, creation of new habitat edges, wildlife trade and consumption, and agricultural intensification especially when they are in, or linked to, areas of high biodiversity that elevate contact rates between humans and certain wildlife species.

This relationship has been shown for multiple individual diseases, in regional and global multi-disease studies, and in theoretical models, although the proportion of cases of degradation that lead to substantially increased risk is not well understood. [Continue reading…]

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