Climate change and deforestation lead to more and new virus outbreaks

Outbreaks of infectious diseases are increasing worldwide. In addition to land use, climate change is also seen as a cause.


the essence in short

  • Outbreaks of infectious diseases are increasing worldwide.
  • Land use and climate change are among the causes.
  • Because animals have to find new habitats, they come into contact with people.

The corona virus is on the rise again. The number of cases has increased dramatically across Switzerland lately. But Covid-19 is not the only virus currently circulating.

The world is witnessing an accumulation of infectious disease outbreaks. But that’s not new, it’s something you’ve “seen in the years or decades before that,” Isabella Eckerle says.

In an interview with SRF, the virologist confirms that “so-called zoonoses are becoming more common”.

Humans invade previously untouched areas

These are infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Transmission from wild animals to livestock and then to humans is also possible.

For example, do you protect yourself against infectious diseases with a vaccination?

Eckerle sees a man-made change behind the proliferation of these new viruses. Think of deforestation or the felling of rainforests. And how these newly created areas are then used.

This land use plays a “big role”, says the virologist. Because man penetrates previously untouched areas.

Where there used to be a rainforest, pastures for cattle are being placed. This provides opportunities for virus transmission to farm animals – and from them to humans.

Climate change is driving animals away

Another reason for the increase in infectious diseases is climate change. Many animals have to adjust their behavior accordingly in order to find the necessary livelihoods.

Due to climate change, animals are looking for a new habitat. They also come into contact with people. Viruses can also be transmitted between the animals themselves.

Virus prevention and early detection

All in all, virologist Isabella Eckerle believes that epidemics or pandemics will remain possible in the future – better preparations have to be made. It is relevant that pathogens are detected early and can therefore react quickly. This check works well in some cases, but even less so with some viruses.

“The most important thing is prevention,” says Eckerle. In other words, ensuring that “unaffected ecosystems remain untouched”. And that man «doesn’t infringe too much on nature, in which wild animals still have their place».

More on the subject:

Nature SRF Coronavirus

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