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Zoonotic Diseases Are On The Rise, But Preventing Future Pandemics Is Possible

Protecting wildlife habitats, reducing urban demand for wild meat and early detection of disease outbreaks are among the recommendations to prevent the spread of future pandemics and avoid their damaging impacts, according to a White Paper issued by the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme, an Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) initiative, funded by the European Union (EU).

Specialists from FAO, CIRAD, CIFOR and WCS - who are implementing the SWM Programme - reviewed and analysed the available scientific information on the causes of zoonotic disease spillover and their subsequent spread. The resulting White Paper, and an associated short 4-page Policy Brief, provide clear guidance on how to tackle the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence and recommendations on how to prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks.

“We need to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to better understand the root causes of zoonotic diseases, in order to prevent future outbreaks and support a green recovery,” said the Director-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) at the European Commission, Koen Doens.

Approximately 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases today, and almost all recent pandemics, originate from animals and particularly wildlife. This includes, for instance, the Ebola virus, Lassa virus, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

“This complex situation calls for a sound risk assessment and appropriate measures adapted to each country,” said OACPS Secretary-General H.E. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti. “These must be combined with global measures and coordinated efforts to efficiently address the question of why infectious diseases are emerging and re-emerging.”

The White Paper was launched today at the GLF Biodiversity Digital Conference: One World - One Health.

How to minimize future pandemics?

The White Paper and Policy Brief call for a three-pronged approach to minimize the occurrence of future pandemics, namely:

  • PREVENT: Minimize the risks of exposure to wildlife pathogens. Priority actions include conserving wildlife habitats, reducing urban demand for wild meat, reinforcing controls on wildlife trade, promoting food safety and hygiene standards and developing sustainable and safe local food systems.
  • DETECT: Ensure the early detection and reporting of future zoonotic spillover and disease outbreaks. Especially, efforts should be put on risk assessments and mapping, and developing effective surveillance systems, which are integrated with national public health systems.
  • RESPOND: Put in place effective One Health policy, regulatory and operational systems. Supporting and investing in the One Health approach, which ensures collaborative, multisectoral, and trans-disciplinary solutions, is critical.

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