COVID-19 Might Be Start Of ‘An Age Of Pandemics’, Experts Warn
Public health experts are warning that the current pandemic could be proof we have many more to come, noting that we have ‘entered a pandemic era’.
New research draws upon ‘unprecedented pandemic explosions’ that have occurred in the past decade – such as the H1N1 ‘swine’ influenza in 2009, Chikungunya in 2014 and Zika in 2015 – to predict the acceleration of such widespread outbreaks in the years to come.
Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci and his National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases colleague, David Morens, have suggested this acceleration will be driven largely by deforestation, urban crowding and wet markets.
In research published last month in the journal Cell, Fauci and epidemiologist Morens stress that evidence suggests SARS, MERS and COVID-19 ‘are only the latest examples of a deadly barrage of coming coronavirus and other emergences’.
In the past 17 years alone, Morens noted that three novel coronaviruses have emerged after more than a century without any new ones.
When you consider there’s also been an explosion of Ebola outbreaks almost continuously over the past six years, a Zika pandemic and the global spread of fatal dengue hemorrhagic fever, it starts to look like more than a coincidence, the epidemiologist said.
He told BuzzFeed News:
I don’t have a crystal ball, but what we are seeing looks very much like an acceleration of pandemics.
Emerging diseases expert Nikos Vasilakis, of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, agrees, stating, ‘These pandemics do seem to be an increasing trend that look like they are going to happen more often, that is a fact.’
And while he said he doesn’t think such pandemics are avoidable, he does believe ‘it is preventable’. The way to do this is by changing the way we treat each disease; by stopping treating them as a one-off emergency and something that bucks the trend.
Instead, Gregory Gray of the Duke Global Health Institute said we need to look into the future and start moving towards lowering the risks for potential outbreak hotspots where people and animals are crowded together.
Last week, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) named 10 centres for research into emerging diseases to investigate pathogens that might pass from wild animals to people, such as SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2.
And while this is certainly a step in the right direction, Morens said a lot more is needed to protect us from future pandemics: ‘We cannot predict the emergence of any one pandemic, and it’s possible this trend will just go away. But I wouldn’t bet on it.’
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