There are at least 10,000 viruses in the world that can infect humans, but most of them are far from human habitation in the wild, so there’s not much to worry about. But that could change in the not so distant future.
Climate change may lead to a situation where two species that were previously isolated from each other share a habitat, giving rise to the possibility that they transmit their diseases to each other, according to a recent study published in Nature.
In scientific terms, such an event when a virus from one species jumps into another species for the first time is called a “spillover”.
The study, conducted by researchers at the American University of Georgetown, estimated that the number of such species whose habitats would change due to climate change would be 3,139, which could lead to overflow events 4,000 times.
Here’s everything you need to know about this study and existing scientific knowledge about climate change and pandemics.
What is the science of climate change and pandemics?
Climatic and environmental factors drive migration. Humans and animals move to warmer places in winter and to cooler places in summer. As the climate would become more extreme and the natural habitat of many animals would be threatened, they would leave these places and their likelihood of coming into contact with humans would increase.
With such contact, the possibility of humans catching any disease they carry will also increase. However, the risk does not only come from animals.
Cleveland Clinics said in a statement, “It is also possible that long-dormant viruses frozen in the ice could be released by melting polar regions.
Global warming also brings other fears. “As the earth warms, scientists worry about an increase in mosquito-borne viruses and infectious diseases spread by animals,” notes the Cleveland Clinic.
It may have already started
Gregory Albery, the study’s co-lead author, said it’s likely what they predicted has already begun. He added that it’s not entirely preventable either.
Study co-author Colin Carlson was quoted as saying by Euro News that we need to reduce greenhouse gases and phase out fossil fuels to reduce the risk of the spread of infectious diseases.
Between their alarming findings, the researchers also said that not all of these emerging viruses will infect humans or cause a pandemic, but an even smaller but significant number of outbreaks pose a risk to human health.
Even though they have reduced mortality, they could overwhelm health systems and affect the economy, as even mild illness in people can affect productivity.
Asia and Africa are most at risk
Regions in Asia and Africa are most at risk, according to the Georgetown study.
The risk of emerging infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans is especially true for Africa and Asia, continents that have been hotspots for the spread of deadly diseases from humans to animals or vice versa in recent decades. including influenza, HIV, Ebola and COVID -19, Euro News reported citing the Georgetown study.
Jaron Browne of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance said the Georgetown study highlighted the climate injustices experienced by people in African and Asian countries.
Browne said: “African and Asian nations face the greatest threat of increased exposure to the virus, illustrating once again how those on the frontlines of the crisis have very often done the least to create climate change. “.