Deforestation and urban expansion increase the risk of epidemics

Bats, civets, ticks… 60% of human infectious diseases are of animal origin. This is what increases the risk of transmission.

Animals spreading diseases to humans

How deforestation contributes to coronavirus

Not only do deforestation, faming, and urban expansion threaten the environment, but also humans: these are factors that increase the risk of epidemics. One of the primary reasons: the contact between animals and humans. 60% of human infectious diseases are of animal origin and more than two-thirds of them come from wild animals. The destruction of natural environments, due to deforestation and urban expansion, leads to animal migration and increases the risk of transmission.

In 2017, the Ebola virus appeared in deforested areas of Central and West Africa. The bats carrying the virus fed on farms and gardens, allowing transmission to humans. Another example is Lyme disease transmitted by ticks in the United States. In the northeast of the country, deforestation has driven out possums, which helped regulate tick populations. Other actions can also contribute to epidemics: factory farming, which promotes the spreading of viruses through feces, and animal trade, which brings together animals that shouldn't naturally meet. This is the probable cause of the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. According to scientists from the Global Virome project, wildlife is reportedly home to 1.7 million viruses still unknown.

Coronavirus scare helping some animals

In a more positive direction, the endangered pangolins are suspected of being intermediate hosts that would’ve enabled the transmission of the virus to humans. These small mammals could benefit from the pandemic. The sales of pangolin have decreased since the start of the pandemic. Over the last few days, Chinese buyers have disappeared. In China, the epicenter of the pandemic, the government has taken strong measures to curb the health crisis. In 2003, similar measures were taken to stem the SARS epidemic, but they were suspended after a few months. Other sectors are exempt from the recent bans: fur, breeding for zoological parks and traditional medicine. However, this sector should be subjected to stricter controls and quarantines.


March 21, 2020 7:31 AM