Prevention is better than cure: the case of Covid-19 and future pandemics

Covid-19 has killed over 6.2 million people worldwide and over 175,000 people in the UK.

In the last week of April 2022, on average 313 people a day in were still dying of the virus in the UK.  Although Omicron is more infectious than other common viruses, it is less fatal than the Delta variant.  The question is whether new variants will emerge and whether the world will ever be free of Covid-19.

Pandemics are not going away

But the fact is pandemics like Covid-19 are not going away.  Recent research shows that new viral outbreaks appear at an irregular but increasing rate and in more recent decades there have been fewer years between outbreaks, fewer years with no outbreaks, and outbreaks have spread to populations on more continents. Over the past century, viruses have been detected in humans at a roughly uniform rate of two new species per year.  This includes several major pandemics from Spanish Flu during the First World War (50 million dead) to the more recent case of HIV in the 1980’s (over 10 million dead) and many other viruses like Ebola, West Nile and Zika that did not spread so far or kill so many.  As human populations rise and we live closer together, the prospect of pandemics increases.

Covid-19 was 100% predictable

Our scientific knowledge means that Covid-19 was no surprise: although it was not prevented, this pandemic was entirely predictable. Governments across the world have preferred to treat the infection once it had arrived in the human population with all the additional costs and human loss that this involved rather than irradicate it at source.  This is likely because immediate measures suit the short-term objectives of most of our political leaders.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has understood the pandemic threat and has warned Governments of the importance sharing scientific research on the emergence of infectious diseases. The key is to stay ahead and be prepared.

How can we reduce the pandemic risk?

If we want to minimize the risk of future pandemics and increase the speed of detecting new pathogens before they spread locally and globally, we need to be alert to the following issues:

  • Deforestation – Researchers from Harvard believe that forest loss is probably the most significant cause of the increased risk in pandemics. Rapid population growth and deforestation, particularly in the tropics, brings people into contact with animals as they enter forests to clear them for agriculture or timber, build roads, or work in mines.  Watching behind the scenes footage from David Attenborough’s programmes reveals just how close wild animal now live to human settlements.
  • Agriculture and animal welfare – Livestock now make up more biomass than all wild land animals and humans combined, representing a massive reservoir from which new pathogens can emerge. Many of the conditions associated with intensive animal farming (particularly those that challenge animal welfare) have been associated with poor immune function and reduced resistance to infectious diseases.  Challenges for intensively reared animals include the effects of genetic selection for fast growth and productivity, high stocking densities, poor air quality, light deprivation, sleep deprivation and acute or chronic exposure to sources of physical and psychological stress.
  • Surveillance of viruses in wildlife – discovering new viruses in animals is key to preventing their spread to human populations. International aid and cooperation is needed urgently to make this a reality.
  • Restricting wildlife hunting and trade – the spill over of pathogens can occur whenever humans hunt or eat wild animals and at any point in the wildlife trade pipeline: from the individuals who hunt and capture wild animals to those who consume, wear, or keep wildlife as pets, and everyone in between.

How can we help to reduce future pandemics?

There are several things we can do to play our part in reducing the risk of future pandemics.  These include:

  • Continuing to avoid crowds and wear masks when visiting congested areas or places where infections may be present.
  • Maintaining frequent hand washing using soap and water where possible or hand sanitisers.
  • Using organic essential oils e.g. bergamot and eucalyptus globulus that are known to kill viruses including Covid-19. Oils can be used in diffusers, cleaning & laundry products, and if you are not allergic, directly on handkerchiefs, hair or clothing.
  • Avoiding products that include palm oil. Palm oil plantations are responsible for huge swathes of tropical deforestation.  Look for products that are certified palm oil free with a reputable organisation like POFCAP.
  • Stopping meat eating or only buying certified organic products that are not from intensively reared animals.
  • Supporting animal welfare organisations and looking for products that are certified by Cruelty Free International.
  • Always avoiding contact with wild animals.

The Greenscents range of organic household products is ideal if you are looking to help reduce the risk of future pandemics.  The entire range is certified organic, vegan, cruelty-free and palm oil free.  More information can be found here or contact info@greenscents.co.uk.

Further reading

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abl4183

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/04/failure-to-prevent-pandemics-at-source-is-greatest-folly-say-scientists

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/252646/WHO-OHE-PED-2016.2-eng.pdf

https://github.com/CSSEGISandData/COVID-19

https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/when-will-the-covid-19-pandemic-end