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Monkeypox cases are on the rise in the United States, with about 67,600 cases worldwide, including about 25,500 in the United States, and at the same time, the world is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the number of cases is declining. facing
Researchers believe that this type of virus, known as a zoonotic disease, or a virus that spreads between humans and animals, causes the destruction of animal habitats and the introduction of humans into previously uninhabited areas. It will become more common as factors such as expansion intensify.
Deepening interactions between humans and animals
Monkeypox was first discovered in monkeys in 1958 and in humans in 1970, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Factors such as deforestation, population growth, and animal breeding are removing boundaries between human and wildlife habitats, Bring them closer together.
About 1 billion acres of forest have been cut down since 1990. Deforestation rates are declining, with an average of 25 million acres cleared each year from 2015 to 2020, down from about 16 million acres per year in the 1990s, according to a United Nations report.
In addition to climate impacts, deforestation means habitat loss, often bringing wildlife closer to humans.
“Just looking at the impact of environmental changes, animal behavior changes, and human behavior changes can lead to more contact between wildlife and humans, leading to more pollution,” said Lanre Williams-Ayedun. rice field. Senior Vice President of International Programs at World Relief, a sustainability non-profit organization.
animal changing pattern Carl Fichtenbaum, Ph.D., vice chair for internal medicine and clinical research at the University of Cincinnati, said migration and reproduction affect how pathogens behave in their natural hosts, potentially making them more contagious in the process. says that there is
“Depending on the particular bacterium, if you have the opportunity to do this multiple times, the bacterium will adapt to the new species,” he said.
A United Nations study found that an estimated 60% of known infectious diseases in humans and 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, i.e., interspecies transmission from animals to humans. rice field.
Among them are Ebola, Zika, and COVID-19, which scientists hypothesize originated in bats.
Could the current monkeypox outbreak have been predicted?
Monkeypox is endemic or is regularly found in some African countries.However, because monkeypox is “self-limiting” and not as contagious as other viruses. I didn’t expect it to be so popular,” said Williams Aiden.
The virus was nearly eradicated when people in these areas were more vaccinated against monkeypox’s cousin, smallpox. But currently, vaccination rates for people under the age of 40 are much lower, said Williams-Ayedun.
Also, people are traveling farther and more often these days.
“It’s easy to spread disease around the world. What happens in what we consider to be a remote part of the world can very easily become a concern where we live.” We have seen that there is
Luis Escobar, assistant professor of fish and wildlife at Virginia Tech, said: Researchers have been able to predict where small monkeypox outbreaks are likely to occur (poor neighborhoods, areas of war and social conflict, remote areas, etc.), but where data are less accessible. said.
“My perception is that the data may not be enough,” he said. “The data may not have been sufficient to predict a global epidemic of this magnitude.
He added that scientists “must investigate zoonotic diseases in every corner of the world.” [region] It will cause the next pandemic. ”
Fichtenbaum agrees, saying there are thousands of bacteria in the ecosphere, making it difficult to know which ones will spread at pandemic-level rates.
“If someone said, ‘Well, I can predict that this bacterium is going to be the next big bacterium,’ I think that’s really disingenuous,” he said. I don’t think we are good at that.”
Zoonotic disease outbreaks are likely to become more frequent
Looking to the future, Escobar said, researchers have ignored historical data in their research to combat the spread of the disease.
“The research I do is to predict the future,” he said. “But we’re making a lot of effort to reconstruct the past. We’re analyzing data from the last century in terms of wildlife diseases, climate, and forest law from the last 100 years. We understand what is happening now.”
He and his colleagues used that data in simulations to predict patterns over the next 50 to 100 years. But zoonotic diseases may not take so long.
Escobar’s research suggests that in the next 12 to 20 years, there could be a significant increase in diseases spreading from bats to humans. Diseases endemic to Latin American bat populations may begin to migrate to the southern United States as Latin America warms, which will affect bat distribution and abundance.
Moreover, diseases that are unique only to animals can tell us a lot about what society will look like in the future.
For example, as global warming intensifies, viruses common in fish could disrupt aquaculture, hurting food production and the economy, Escobar said.
What can be done about it?
Fichtenbaum says public policy needs to address prevalence of zoonotic diseases.
“A lot of the focus on climate change right now is, ‘Well, this is bad for the environment. We’re going to see floods and heatwaves. This can have an impact. Economic survival. But people will always We’re not looking at it from a health or human disease standpoint, and it’s very costly.”
In recent years, some researchers in the field of zoonotic disease research have been promoting a “one health” approach that integrates public health, veterinary medicine and environmental health, Ayedun-Wliliams said.
Helping people find jobs, safe shelter and food is also important. Rarity can lead to hunting of wild animals and cutting down trees for homes, which can result in zoonotic diseases, she said.