To Prevent Pandemics, Invest in Conservation

NEW YORK – July 24, 2020 – In peer-reviewed analysis published today in Science, a group of scientists shows that investment in to prevent spread of infectious disease vastly outweighs the costs associated with these outbreaks.

While zoonotic disease outbreaks like the one responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic are traditionally thought of as once-in-a-century crises, two new viruses spill into human populations each year. These are far from isolated events and significant investment is necessary so as not to repeat the COVID-19 pandemic which has, to date, killed more than 600,000 people worldwide.

“Prevention is the gold standard when it comes to chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer. But when it comes to infectious disease, we tend to wait until they strike to act,” Dr. Peter Daszak, co-author and president of EcoHealth Alliance, said. “That has to change. What we show here is that not only is that a better solution, it’s a less expensive one as well.”

While estimates as to the global cost of COVID-19 vary, most fall somewhere between $5-15 trillion. Investment of $22 billion globally per year in programs to reduce deforestation and curb wildlife trafficking would significantly reduce pandemic risk.

The cost of these preventative measures–over the next 10 years–totals only about two percent of the estimated eventual cost of COVID-19.

The paper suggests a number of recommendations for pandemic risk investment. These include: early detection and control measures, reducing deforestation by 40 percent, and programs to monitor and curb the trade of wild animals and animal products.

As the paper also notes, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body tasked with monitoring worldwide wildlife trade, has an annual budget of only $6 million.

Co-authors of the study include representatives of Conservation International, the University of California-Santa Barbara, Boston University, Duke University, Arizona State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Harvard University, Earth Innovation Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rice University, George Mason University, the Safina Center, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and World Wildlife Fund International.

About EcoHealth Alliance:
Building on 45 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is the premier nonprofit organization committed to a One Health approach to track the migration of deadly viruses from animals into humans. EcoHealth Alliance research has led to major breakthroughs on the origins and spread of new and emerging diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS, Nipah virus, and, now, SARS-CoV-2. EcoHealth Alliance works globally in hotspot regions where the threat of outbreaks is highest. Through innovations in research, training, capacity building, and policy initiatives, we develop tools and interventions to prevent pandemics and promote conservation.
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