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Combating a Pandemic Is 500 Times More Expensive Than Preventing One Says New Research

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Investing in wildlife monitoring and deforestation could prevent costly pandemics.

According to new research, the failure to protect tropical rain forests has cost trillions of dollars stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked economic havoc and caused historic levels of unemployment in the United States and around the world.Deforestation of Rainforest

Credit: Daniele Gidsicki   / Wikimedia Commons

For decades, scientists and environmental activists have been trying to draw the world’s attention to the many harms caused by the rapid destruction of tropical forests. One of these harms is the emergence of new diseases that are transmitted between wild animals and humans, either through direct contact or through contact with livestock that is then eaten by humans. The SARS-CoV-2 virus–which has so far infected more than 15 million people worldwide–appears to have been transmitted from bats to humans in China.

“Much of this traces back to our indifference about what has been occurring at the edges of tropical forests,” says Les Kaufman, a Boston University professor of biology.

He recently brought together 18 experts from Princeton University, Duke University, Conservation International, and other institutions, to better understand the economic costs of reducing transmission of viruses like the novel coronavirus. Looking at existing research, they made a startling realization.

They discovered that significantly reducing transmission of new diseases from tropical forests would cost, globally, between $22.2 and $30.7 billion each year. In stark contrast, they found that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely end up costing between $8.1 and $15.8 trillion globally–roughly 500 times as costly as what it would take to invest in proposed preventive measures. To estimate the total financial cost of COVID-19, researchers included both the lost gross domestic product and the economic and workforce cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. They published their findings in a policy brief in Science.

Deforestation – Caceres (Mato Grosso, Brasile), Satellite Landsat 5 TM (227/071 – 1996, 453 RGB)
File:Deforestation Carceres Braasil 1996.jpg
Credit: NASA / Wikimedia Commons

The researchers say disease transmission from wild animals to humans occurs frequently near the edges of tropical forests, where human incursions increase the likelihood of contact with animals. These incursions take the form of logging, cattle ranching, and other livestock businesses, and the exotic animal trade, among others. Tropical forests are often cut down in a patchwork or checkerboard pattern, increasing the amount of land that lies at the edges of the forest and thus increasing the risk for disease transmission between species that would normally live in different ecosystems.

To reduce disease transmission, Kaufman and his collaborators propose expanding wildlife trade monitoring programs, investing in efforts to end the wild meat trade in China, investing in policies to reduce deforestation by 40 percent, and fighting the transmission of disease from wild animals to livestock.

In China alone, wildlife farming (a government-monitored effort to sustainably hunt wild animals without overhunting them) is an approximately $20 billion industry, employing 15 million people, say Kaufman and his peers. In many China communities, the purchase of wildlife and bushmeat–meat from wildlife species–is a status symbol.

The researchers also propose to increase funding for creating an open source library of the unique genetic signatures of known viruses, which could help quickly pinpoint the source of emerging diseases and catch them more quickly, before they can spread.

Every year, two new viruses are estimated to transfer from animals to humans, the researchers say. Historically, these have included HIV, MERS, SARS-CoV-1, H1N1, and most recently, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Kaufman and his colleagues hope that their report will spur governments around the world, including the US government, to help fund these preventive measures.

There are some signs of hope, they say, including the February announcement by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that wildlife consumption for food or related trade would be banned in China.

“The pandemic gives an incentive to do something addressing concerns that are immediate and threatening to individuals, and that’s what moves people,” says Kaufman. “There are many people who might object to the United States fronting money, but it’s in our own best interest. Nothing seems more prudent than to give ourselves time to deal with this pandemic before the next one comes.”

Contacts and sources:

Hilary Katulak
Jeremy Schwab
Boston University



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  • Everette

    What angers me is that we have the cures to all diseases . But in the name if money we have to spend tax payers money to find new ways that will guarantee that those involved will make gobs of money . Rife Frequencies kill bacteria and viruses . ELF towers can run frequencies that will kill immediately bacteria and viruses plagueing humanity . Silver water a natural substance using silver kills 650 bacteria and viruses known to man . Anti- viral Meds kills viruses . Electricity kills viruses and bacteria . I have used a 9 volt battery to kill H1N1 in my brother who had a relapse after leaving the hospital . After one use with the 9 volt properly My brother the next day was out busting wood to heat his house . The day I hooked him up he was coughing his lungs out and could not get his breath . Penicillin found at farm stores also kills bacteria . But funny thing the doctors have put it on the shelf so they can prolong the diseases in the victims so they can roll in the money . I know a case of a young girl that the dentist would not pull her tooth that had caused her jaw and glands to swell up . He wants to work on the other teeth before pulling the infected tooth that is causing the child pain . It maybe several weeks before he is ready to pull the baby tooth . She is now on her second dose of anti-biotics . This is pure crazy !!! But this is what the American people are now putting up with . And a doctor claiming he is curing patients of their diseases will soon be jailed . What the hell ? They just feed your body enough meds to keep you alive and say they feel your body should do the work to heal its self , if not then you die ! How the hell have we gotten to this point ? It’s called stupidity and not stopping the nuts once this rose up as a problem . But no , they spent almost a million dollars to be doctors . Someone has to help them make money and pay their loans back . You are no longer a person , you are a number . There is no feelings for your well being anymore . They want you sick so they can rack in the dough ( money ) . But what about the oath they all took about life is the most important of all matters ? Save the life of the person and deal with the other problems later . Oh no ! Obama care wants the elderly , sick , retired euthanased . What kind of sick bastard can not believe in human life and try to save it ? A damn reptilian luciferian piece of scum does not care for human life , they eat humans ! Get a chance look that up and find out if Obama was a shape shifting reptilian bastard of lucifer ! You maybe surprised ! In your search don’t use google because they limit your searching power . They sold out to China !

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