Story at a glance
- Preventing Pandemics At The Source is composed of the Harvard Global Health Institute and T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rainforest Alliance, the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy.
- The group is asking to establish a Pandemic Prevention Fund consisting of an initial $2.5 billion investment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the discussion around how humans interact with their environment.
In searching for the source of the coronavirus, a disease spread between animal and human contact, epidemiologists looked at wet markets in Wuhan, China as a likely epicenter. In this setting, human customers are in frequent contact with wild animals, both dead and alive, who could be carrying a myriad of diseases new to humans.
While the general public was taken aback by the rampant spread of COVID-19 and its unusual source, scientists had long known that countless new viruses exist in global ecosystems. Previous examples were seen with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the original SARS virus.
The question becomes: Will another pandemic occur?
Now, a new advocacy group has formed to prevent the next pandemic from occurring by overhauling how humans interact with nature.
The coalition, called Preventing Pandemics At The Source, is composed of prestigious entities like the Harvard Global Health Institute and T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rainforest Alliance, the World Wildlife Fund, and The Nature Conservancy. Per a letter issued to leaders in Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the group’s mission is to reduce zoonotic spillover with federal investment.
“As Congress and the Biden Administration draft the emergency COVID-19 package, we ask that you ensure a significant level of new funds is directed to support programs and activities that prevent pandemics at the source through development assistance programs focused on One Health, forest conservation, and wildlife trade, including to help support frontline and Indigenous communities in zoonotic spillover hotspots,” the group writes.
Another pillar in their plan is to establish a Pandemic Prevention Fund consisting of an initial $2.5 billion investment.
A large public relations campaign is a separate goal, aimed at creating global awareness of pandemics and how to prevent them.
Scores of scientific literature runs parallel to the mission of Preventing Pandemics At The Source, warning against deforestation that exposes humans to coronaviruses carried by animals like rats and bats. Experts believe the latter is the source of COVID-19.
Scientists believe that as humans continue to expand into natural landscapes, our encounters with animals and novel pathogens they potentially carry will increase as well.
“We’ve been warning about this for decades,” Kate Jones, an ecological modeler at University College London, told the journal Nature. “Nobody paid any attention.”