Via The Independent: World warned: Prepare for more Ebola-like outbreaks. Excerpt:
Outbreaks of deadly animal‑to-human viruses such as Ebola could become more likely due to climate change and human encroachment into untouched natural habitats, a leading United Nations expert has warned.
Dr David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on Ebola, told The Independent the world should prepare for more major outbreaks of zoonotic diseases – those which can pass from animals to humans – which he said were a “local and global threat to humanity”.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has claimed nearly 10,500 lives in little over a year, is believed to have originated in fruit bats – and Dr Nabarro believes it is not the only disease that could transfer and spread.
“I’ve been dealing with influenzas and Sars and Mers, they are a tip of the iceberg,” he said.
“There will be more: one, because people are moving around more; two, because the contact between humans and the wild is on the increase; and maybe because of climate change. The worry we always have is that there will be a really infectious and beastly bug that comes along.”
Some experts suspect that population pressure and deforestation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which has brought people into closer contact with the wild-animal hosts of numerous viruses – combined with changes to rainfall patterns that affected the numbers and behaviour of bats – may have led to the first transmission of Ebola in West Africa, a region that prior to last year never had an outbreak.
Dr Nabarro also said climate change was expanding the range of disease-carrying mosquitoes, posing threats to millions more people from infections like malaria and dengue fever. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which provoked a global health panic in the 2000s, is a deadly flu-like illness caused by a virus thought to have originated from wild animals sold at food markets in China.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) is an emerging illness that has killed more than 350 people, most of them in the Middle East. It is thought to originate in bats, and to have been passed on to humans by camels.
However, the new focus of scientists’ concerns is tropical regions where areas of high biodiversity are increasingly being encroached upon by growing human populations, or where mining companies, loggers and palm oil growers working in untouched habitats bring people into close contact with wildlife reservoirs of disease.
Dr Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a scientific organisation that researches environmental factors that raise disease threats in humans, said the loss of agricultural land as a result of climate change, which drives migration into previously underpopulated areas, also brings humans and livestock into contact with new wildlife, and potentially new viruses.