Friday, January 15th, 2021

EcoHealth Alliance study shows benefit of investing in disease outbreak mitigation

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The investment to prevent the spread of infectious disease are well worth it compared to the costs associated with these outbreaks, a new analysis by published in Science by the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance proclaims.

While zoonotic disease outbreaks like the one that caused the COVID-19 pandemic are considered by many to be rare, the fact is, two new viruses spill into human populations each year. Thus, significant investment is necessary to avoid a repeat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Prevention is the gold standard when it comes to chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer. But when it comes to infectious disease, we tend to wait until they strike to act,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, co-author of the study and president of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization committed to tracking the migration of deadly viruses from animals into humans. “That has to change. What we show here is that not only is that a better solution, it’s a less expensive one as well.”

The analysis says the global cost of COVID-19 falls somewhere between $5 trillion to $15 trillion. In comparison, an investment of $22 billion globally per year in programs to reduce deforestation and curb wildlife trafficking would significantly reduce pandemic risk. The combined cost of these preventative measures over a 10-year period would only be about 2 percent of the estimated eventual cost of COVID-19.

The study makes several recommendations for investments to reduce pandemic risk including early detection and control measures, reducing deforestation by 40 percent, and monitoring and curbing the trade of wild animals and animal products. One challenge is that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is tasked with monitoring worldwide wildlife trade, has an annual budget of only $6 million.

Researchers from Conservation International, the University of California-Santa Barbara, Boston University, Duke University, Arizona State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Harvard University, Earth Innovation Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rice University, George Mason University, the Safina Center, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and World Wildlife Fund International all contributed to the study.