Link to the full-length PDF version of the article by Dr Jeff Opperman, WWF. Please click on the document title below:
Article by Dr Jeff Opperman, WWF
22 September 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred governments and funders to identify measures that can reduce the risk of future emerging infectious diseases (EID) affecting human health and well-being. Among these, the conservation of natural ecosystems, including more sustainable management of forests, agriculture, and wildlife, have a strong and credible potential to reduce risk of future EID events. Here I focus on some aspects of the management of freshwater resources and ecosystems that are relevant for reducing the risk of future EID events and pandemics.
While COVID-19 is an emerging disease that recently spilt over from animals to humans (an ‘emerging infectious zoonotic disease’) endemic (long-established) zoonotic diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever impose a greater overall health burden on people globally, particularly in the Global South. Further, infectious diseases that are not zoonotic, including waterborne diseases, are among the leading causes of mortality worldwide; beyond disease, a range of toxins and pollutants in water also impose significant global health burdens.
Thus, our policies and interventions for responding to the current pandemic, and development of strategies that link conservation and human health, should not be limited to only COVID-19 or zoonotic diseases, but should address the broader nexus of ecosystems, agriculture and human health.
In addition to a discussion of EID, we’ll conclude with a brief review of the global health implications of endemic diseases, including waterborne diseases, and potential freshwater-focused interventions that can address risk from EID, endemic disease, or both.
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