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Zoonotic Diseases

posted Sep 20, 2020, 3:41 PM by Sarah Glazer   [ updated Sep 20, 2020, 3:49 PM ]
The pandemic circling the globe is only the latest instance of a disease that jumped from animals to humans, known as a zoonotic disease. COVID-19 likely came from a bat; AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Ebola, West Nile and Lyme disease also originated in animals. Zoonotic disease outbreaks have been occurring more often since the 1940s as an expanding human population pushes deeper into forests for hunting, agriculture, mining and housing. Demand for exotic meat also brings live wildlife to food markets, where they can transmit viruses to other animals and humans. How to prevent the next pandemic is a matter of vigorous debate: Some scientists are pushing for more research into animal viruses, while others stress stopping human activities, such as deforestation, that can spur contagion. Conservation groups urge a ban on the wildlife trade, but critics say that will only encourage a black market. Some researchers and environmentalists say preserving wilderness and biological diversity is key to preventing more outbreaks.