Research shows that diseases caused by viruses that jump from animals to humans could increase ‘exponentially’ in the future. Climate change, the increasing world population and our urge to travel are the ideal cocktail to cause many victims, the researchers warn.
Since the corona crisis, a broad section of the world population has become more aware of the extent to which viruses can jump from animals to humans and the speed at which an infection can subsequently spread among people.
There is also increased interest among scientists in mapping so-called zoonotic virus outbreaks, in which a virus jumps from an animal to a human.
Some researchers who have been trying to figure out the trends and severity of zoonotic virus outbreaks have now discovered that four types of viruses are becoming more dangerous at “an exponential rate.” If the trend continues, these diseases together will kill twelve times as many people by 2050 as they do now, according to their analysis of sixty years of data on virus outbreaks, published in BMJ Global Health.
Climate change and the fact that we as humans are increasingly crossing or occupying wildlife habitats are two important reasons why zoonoses are increasing. But the growth of the world population and the fact that our mobility worldwide has increased enormously in just a few decades also lead to a dangerous cocktail that means that deadly epidemics will become more common in the future, the researchers say.
Climate change and the fact that we as humans are increasingly crossing or occupying wildlife habitats are two important reasons why zoonoses are increasing.
The four types of infections that have the potential to cause the most casualties are the so-called filoviruses, such as Ebola and Marburg, the SARS coronavirus 1, the Nipah virus and the Machupo virus.
Ultimately, they found a total of 75 outbreaks of a virus originating from animals in 24 countries during the period studied. More than 17,230 people were killed, of whom more than 15,700 died during forty outbreaks of filoviruses, mainly in Africa. They further discovered that the number of zoonoses and the number of deaths caused by the diseases increased annually by 5 and 9 percent respectively between 1963 and 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic is therefore not yet included in these figures.
“If this annual increase continues, we expect the analyzed viruses to cause four times as many outbreaks and lead to up to twelve times as many deaths in 2050, compared to 2020,” the researchers estimate.
‘It is not yet clear what the ultimate package of measures is to be better prepared and resistant to epidemics worldwide. What is clear from the historical trends is that rapid action is needed to address a major public health risk,” they conclude.