This article notes “Ebola, sars, Zika and Rift Valley fever. But it also included “Disease X”. This illness, caused by a pathogen never before seen in humans, would, the panel said, emerge from animals somewhere in a part of the world where people had encroached on wildlife habitats. It would be more deadly than seasonal influenza but would spread just as easily between people. By hitching rides on travel and trade networks, it would journey beyond its continent of origin within weeks of its emergence. It would cause the world’s next big pandemic, and leave economic and social devastation in its wake.”
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“The first layer is a worldwide effort to find and track the hundreds of thousands of as-yet-unseen pathogens that might threaten human health. The second is the monitoring of blood samples and other indicators from people living in places where new diseases are most likely to emerge. The third is a concerted programme that employs all the data thus collected to get a head-start in the development of drugs and vaccines that might be used to meet an emerging disease halfway.”
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“In 2004, however, a highly pathogenic strain emerged and began to spread across South-East Asia, killing tens of millions of birds. By the middle of 2005 this version of the virus had infected wild geese, which took it into Europe, India and Africa. That year, 98 people were infected, and 43 of them died—a death rate severe enough for David Nabarro, then co-ordinator of the un’s response to influenza, to issue a warning that an unchecked h5n1 outbreak could kill up to 150m people. In 1968 a less pathogenic strain of flu, which had originated in the same area, killed 1m people when it spread around the world. In 1957 a still-earlier relative killed 1.1m. h5n1 was considerably more lethal than either.”
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“PREDICT ran for just over a decade. Scientists working with local teams in 30 countries collected around 170,000 samples from people and wild animals, mainly non-human primates, bats and rodents. In the process they discovered 1,200 new viruses belonging to families known to have the potential to infect people and cause epidemics. Among these were more than 160 potentially zoonotic coronaviruses.”
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“Among other things, having a registry of such risks might make it possible to identify hotspots where an unhealthy number of the conditions for zoonoses coexist. The predict programme’s risk registry includes virological, ecological and sociological factors. Viruses which store their genes as rna, for example, are categorised as more risky than dna viruses, because of their increased ability to mutate. Viruses already found in more than one host are also flagged up. They clearly have an adaptive knack. And being adapted to a species reasonably close to Homo sapiens matters too. A virus able to reproduce in the cells of one species will, other things being equal, have a better chance of adapting to life in a related species than an unrelated one. siv did not have to change all that much to become hiv. Reptile viruses, by contrast, are less of a threat.”
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“Besides being the original reservoirs of sars-cov and sars-cov-2, bats also harbour another coronavirus, mers-cov, which causes Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, an illness first detected in 2012. They are also the source of the virus which causes Ebola and of the hendra and nipah viruses which, over the past three decades, have led to small outbreaks of deadly respiratory and brain infections in Australia and South-East Asia.”
Never kiss an even-toed ungulate!!
Whether to kiss an odd-toed ungulate depends on how odd they are.