By Karim Belbachir and Bernd Fuchs
More and more frequently, viruses manage to jump from animals to humans. In particularly serious cases, there are then pandemics, as is currently the case with Corona, for example. Due to the fact that the habitat of animal species will continue to be restricted with climate change, further zoonoses will be in circulation in the future.
In the video: Bernd Fuchs explains in the climate update how zoonoses come to humans
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Confined habitats increase the chance of transmission
Does climate change favor the transmission of viruses to humans? The scientist Colin Carlson from Georgetown University investigated this question together with his colleagues. We won’t like the answer. More and more of these so-called zoonoses are already being transmitted to humans. One of the main reasons is the overlap of the animals’ habitat. These are being pushed back more and more, for example through agricultural use. They now not only share their habitat with more and more other species, but often with humans as well.
So it is not surprising that more and more zoonoses make the transition to humans. By 2070, the researchers calculated that first contacts with other wild animal species would double. This in turn also increases the risk that they will end up in humans.
At least 4,500 species jumps predicted
The Carlson team expects these species jumps to increase, particularly in the tropical regions of Africa and Southeast Asia. That would be due to the different climate zones and the many species of mammals in a confined space. The scientists predict that up to 15,000 species jumps are possible and 4,500 are considered certain. Even global warming below 2 degrees cannot stop this spread.
“Our results underscore the urgent need to detect and monitor viruses”, explains Carlson. In addition, the shifts in the distribution areas of species must be tracked, especially in tropical regions where most zoonoses are found and where warming is faster.
The most well-known zoonoses: corona viruses
The most famous zoonosis is probably this Covid-19-Virus, which the corona pandemic has given us. Scientists had suspected that the virus was transmitted by bats. However, this is not yet 100 percent guaranteed. Other corona viruses also include MERS and SARS. Bats are also considered to be the original carriers there, while dromedaries and the civet cat species larval rollers served as intermediate hosts.
Affenpocken (Monkeypox Virus)
They’re doing it right now Affenpocken (Monkeypox Virus) the round. In fact, smallpox had been considered extinct since 1979. A consistent vaccination campaign contributed significantly to this. However, since the virus has not appeared in Germany since 1972, compulsory vaccination was lifted in West Germany in 1976 and in East Germany in 1982. People who have been vaccinated against smallpox have some protection (up to 85 percent) from the disease. Rodents are considered to be the intermediate hosts and carriers of monkeypox. One of the reasons for the spread of the latest cases could also be the removal of more forest areas. The virus is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids.
Real flu – influenza
Another zoonosis that has gained some notoriety is that Real flu (influenza). It is an infectious disease transmitted by various animals. The swine flu (H1N1), for example, claimed around 200,000 people in 2009/2010. The parent virus is the H5N1 avian flu.
Ebola With a mortality rate of around 90 percent, it is one of the most deadly zoonoses. Bats are also considered to be the carriers of Ebola. Although the first illness was reported in 1976, the largest outbreak of fever occurred in 2014-2016. Similar to monkeypox, Ebola viruses are transmitted through bodily fluids, but eating contaminated meat and coming into contact with contaminated objects are also transmitted.
It’s another viral disease Denguefieber, which travelers usually catch in tropical countries and then bring with them to Europe. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, but originally comes from monkeys. The first cases of the fever were recorded by the Chinese a few centuries after Christ’s birth.
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