Another pandemic underway? Heard about Amazon rainforest deforestation? Scientists across the globe have been dropping hints over the decades that as human encroach upon forests, risk of contracting viruses from wild animals increases. Also Read - 'Not the Time': Biden Administration Drops Order as Trump Lifts Travel Ban With Europe, Brazil
As per news agency Reuters, felled trees and expanding pastures might open the way for new Brazilian exports beyond beef and soya beans: pandemic diseases. Changes in the Amazon are driving displaced species of animals, from bats to monkeys to mosquitoes, into new areas, while opening the region to arrivals of more savanna-adapted species, including rodents. Also Read - 10,064 Cases, 137 Deaths: India Records Lowest COVID-19 Infections Since June | Key Points
When wild animals come in close contact with human beings, chances of the virulent virus, bacteria, or fungus increases, as per the agency. In fact, climate change which is resulting in rising temperatures and rainfall also adds to the risk. Also Read - Sore Eyes: COVID-19’s Most Significant Ocular Symptom, And Why You Should Not Ignore This
“There is a great concern because … there is a displacement of organisms. They try to adapt, face these new challenging scenarios by changing places,” Adalberto Luis Val a researcher at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA), based in Manaus told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Val further said that the Evandro Chagas Institute, a public health research organisation in the city of Belem, has identified about 220 different types of viruses in the Amazon, 37 of which can cause diseases in humans and 15 of which have the potential to cause epidemics.
Adding, Val said that the range of different encephalitis varieties as well as West Nile fever and Rocio, a Brazilian virus from the same family that produces yellow fever and West Nile fever. The researcher has been concerned about Arboviruses.
What is Arbovirus?
It is a virus that can be transmitted by insects such as the mosquitoes that carry dengue fever and Zika.
Deforestation and Fire
The Reuters report further focused on how deforestation and fire in the Amazon can lead to new meetings between species on the move- existing pathogen to transform or jump species, according to Cecilia Andreazzi, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a major public health institute in Brazil.
She is waiting for a spillover opportunity. “When a pathogen in one species could start circulating in another, potentially creating a new disease – as appears to have happened in China with the virus that causes COVID-19,” she said.
She and other researchers wrote in a science journal that megadiverse countries with high social vulnerability and growing environmental degradation are prone to pathogen spillover from wildlife to humans, and they require policies aimed at avoiding the emergence of zoonoses.
Brazil has over the last few decades has seen the worst fires, it has seen clear warning of a growing problem with the emergence of a Brazilian hemorrhagic fever, rodent-carried hantaviruses, and a mosquito-transmitted arbovirus called oropouche.
We have often blamed a bat, a monkey, or a pig whenever a new virus or disease emerges. As per Joao Paulo Lima Barreto, a member of the Tukano indigenous people, “Humans is causing this, in the relationship that we build with the owners of the space”.
“Without adequate preservation of forests, rivers, and animals, imbalance and disease are generated, he said, as humans fail to respect nature entities known to shamans as “wai-Mahsa,” he added.
Due to deforestation, animals are moving, relocating, and increasing their range due to which chances of contracting virus increases. As the Amazon changes, new outbreaks of threats such as malaria, leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease – transmitted by a “kissing bug” and capable of causing heart damage – have been registered, as per the news agency.