The coronavirus pandemic, which is thought to have started in bats and pangolins, has thrown the dangers of viruses spreading from animals to humans into sharp relief.

Deadly Transmissible or Zoonotic Wildlife Diseases Increase as Nature is Damaged
(Photo : Pixabay)

Spreading Illnesses

These jumps frequently occur on the outskirts of the world's tropical forests, where destruction pushes people closer to animals' natural homes. At the edges of forests, diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and Ebola have spread from one species to another.

Scientists investigated these and other zoonoses as they spread over Africa, Asia, and the Americas as infectious disease doctors and scientists. They discovered that deforestation was a recurring trend.

Beef, soy, palm oil, and timber products account for more than half of the world's tropical deforestation. Monocrop fields and pastures are used to replace mature, biodiverse tropical forests.

Animals living in isolated remnants of natural vegetation struggle to survive when the forest is destroyed piecemeal. When humans encroach on these woods, human-wildlife contact increases and new opportunistic creatures may migrate in.

The spread of illness demonstrates the interdependence of natural environments, the animals that inhabit them, and people.

Related Article: Scientists Double Effort to Find Possible Next Pandemic, Caused by Other Zoonotic Diseases

Here are some diseases that spread because of deforestation:

Yellow fever: Monkeys, humans and hungry mosquitoes

Monkey
(Photo : Simon)

In the absence of people, researchers discovered a very high rate of Plasmodium falciparum (the malaria parasite that causes severe malaria) circulating in the Atlantic tropical forest of Brazil. This raises the likelihood that new world monkeys are infected with the parasite. In addition, monkey species have gotten naturally sick in other parts of the Amazon. Deforestation may have aided cross-infection in both cases.

Malaria: Humans can also infect wildlife

Mosquito
(Photo : Pixabay)

Scientists discovered a very high percentage of Plasmodium falciparum (the malaria parasite that causes severe malaria) circulating in the Atlantic tropical forest of Brazil, even though there were no humans there. This parasite may be infecting new globe monkeys as a result of this discovery. Monkeys have been naturally sick in other parts of the Amazon. Cross-infection may have been aided by deforestation in both situations.

Venezuelan equine encephalitis: Rodents move in

Mouse
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Every year, the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus infects tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of humans. The transmission of zoonotic illnesses such as hantavirus and potentially Madariaga virus is also carried out by the short-tailed cane mouse.

While Tome's spiny rat may be found across the Americas' tropical woods, it likes to live outside forests and near cow pastures.

Ebola: Disease at the forest's edge

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(Photo : Pixabay)

Although Ebola was originally identified in 1976, outbreaks have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. The West African pandemic, which killed over 11,000 people between 2014 and 2016, brought attention to illnesses transmitted from wildlife to humans.

According to some research, deforestation and forest fragmentation may act as a pathway for pathogen-carrying animals to transmit the virus.

Further Research

Many specialists don't understand how viruses spread from wildlife to humans and what causes them to do so. Nevertheless, they claim that wildlife conservation can keep diseases in control, reducing zoonotic spread.

Furthermore, they argue that it is critical to strike a balance between food and forest commodities production and preserve tropical forests.

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