EcoHealth Alliance Releases New and Improved Hotspots Map of Global Pandemic Risk

NEW YORK – October 24, 2017 – EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of animal, environmental and human health on a global scale, announced new research published today in Nature Communications. Building on innovative research on pandemic risk, the published findings re-analyze the organization’s global hotspot map of zoonotic emerging infectious disease risk. The results show for the first time that global disease outbreaks are linked directly to human-induced drivers such as land-use changes, human-wildlife interactions, and population change in high biodiversity regions of the world.

For over 45 years, EcoHealth Alliance has been a global leader in lead scientific research needed to save ecosystems and predict and prevent pandemic outbreaks. The new and improved global hotspots map signifies a completely revamped way of evaluating pandemic threat and should encourage changes within the scientific and global health communities on how to address that threat. The zoonoses hotspots map helps us target our work and create new programs like the Global Virome Project which seeks to detect and characterize our planet’s unknown viral threats. It identifies areas in South and Southeast Asia as having high potential for an outbreak, as well as parts of West and Central Africa and Latin America. EcoHealth Alliance scientists determined the following to be the top drivers of diseases spread:

  • Deforestation or land-use change in formerly forested areas
  • High-level of wildlife biodiversity
  • Dense human populations, especially where these are growing rapidly
  • Interaction of humans and wildlife, creating the opportunity for pathogens to jump from one species to another

“This work allows us to state, unequivocally, that human behavior on a planet-wide scale creates opportunity for disease to emerge and spread and drives pandemic risk. Risk comes not only from known pathogens, but also the estimated 1.5 million+ unknown viruses which lurk in biodiverse regions. The brightest areas on our map are the places researchers should be headed to stop the next pandemic before is starts,” stated Dr. Peter Daszak, author on the paper and president of EcoHealth Alliance.

EcoHealth Alliance's Hotspots Map of Global Pandemic Risk
EcoHealth Alliance’s Hotspots Map of Global Pandemic Risk

EcoHealth Alliance’s rigorous science-based approach has led to the discovery of new novel viruses found in wildlife that could make the jump into human populations. The organization continues to work with global partners on the ground to predict and prevent the next possible pandemic with the collaboration of in-country scientists, foreign ministries, top universities and local scientists. This work was funded by the USAID’s PREDICT program.

About EcoHealth Alliance

Building on over 45 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife, environmental and public health from the emergence of disease. Approximately 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases like Ebola, HIV, Zika, SARS, MERS, and West Nile virus have all originated in animals before spilling over to human populations. Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions to determine where research and field work are needed to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance’s rigorous, science-based approach working in more than 30 countries worldwide. EcoHealth Alliance’s strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, capacity building and policy initiatives.

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To read “Global hotspots and correlates of emerging zoonotic diseases” in full, click here.