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The next global health pandemic could easily erupt in your backyard

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We know the virus that causes COVID-19 is linked to very similar viruses in bats, possibly passed to humans via an intermediate species such as pangolins. The chance of a similar pandemic breaking out in Australia might seem far-fetched. But in fact, we tick all the boxes.

Hotspots for emerging infectious diseases exist where human activities collide with a richness of animal species – and hence, high rates of microbial biodiversity.

Read more: Most laws ignore ‘human-wildlife conflict’. This makes us vulnerable to pandemics

As research has shown, Australia is such a place. Across the continent, particularly the east coast, natural landscapes have been severely damaged by human activity such as land clearing and mismanagement of river systems. This has led to forest loss, drying wetlands, biodiversity decline and bushfires.

All animals harbour viruses and other pathogens. And when environmental pressures force animals into contact with humans, the results can be catastrophic.

A world of disease

In humans, around three-quarters of all emerging infectious diseases are spread by non-humans. A new infectious disease emerges in humans every four months.

In Africa, the Ebola virus resulted from human contact with fruit bats, and AIDS was caused by a pathogen that jumped from non-human primates during road-building.

In the United States, Lyme disease is caught from deer ticks. And the brain-damaging Nipah virus originated in Malaysia after bats infected pigs, which passed the disease to farmers.

In China and elsewhere, the deforestation of pangolin habitat makes........

© The Conversation

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