Diseases that are transmitted between different species are the result of intertwined ecological, socioeconomic and demographic processes. These processes condition greater contact between humans and wild animals in areas with environmental degradation and influence the speed with which infections spread through socially vulnerable regions.
A new studying focusing on Brazil points out that the remote cities with high vegetation loss near the Amazon rainforest have a higher risk of these outbreaks. This research, published in advances in science, analyzes nine of these pathologies from 2001 to 2019 and points out that only eight of the twenty-seven Brazilian states have a low level of risk.
“We developed a new methodology to quantify the relationship between the frequency of various zoonotic diseases and twelve variables, including the presence of wild animals, loss of natural vegetation, urban afforestation, average gross domestic product and distance from the cities studied.” , explains to SINC Cecilia Andreazzifrom the Center for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM).
Cities with common risks
The most endangered states are generally concentrated in the north of the country: Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Roraima or Tocantins. These are territories that, in addition to having lost their vegetation, are in contact with fauna and are far from the main centers. On the contrary, those areas where there is urban vegetation and more green spaces present less risk.
Gisele Winckgives Oswaldo Cruz Foundationand other scientists also point out that the hunting species surveillance for meat could prevent the spread of these outbreaks. “Despite the indirect risk posed by the consumption of wild animals, a complete ban could affect millions of livelihoods and exacerbate threats to biodiversity,” says Winck.
“To prevent zoonotic outbreaks related to hunting, it is imperative to ensure the health and food safety of the people who consume this meat to survive. This can be achieved through sanitary monitoring of the entire production chain and policies that promote education and good management”, he adds.
A challenge for Brazil
The forecast of the risk of zoonotic diseases in the country remains a challenge for several reasonsincluding the complex interplay between the ecological and socioeconomic processes that drive outbreaks.
In addition, hospitalizations and deaths from outbreaks can vary widely across the country and there are little knowledge about indigenous pathogens from Brazil, according to the researchers. To address this gap, Winck and his team implemented a new analytical framework to predict the epidemic risks of these pathologies.
The tapir is one of the animals hunted by the inhabitants of the Amazon rivers. /free images
It is the first time that more complex statistical models are used to risk categorization report. This will allow “improving assessment in countries with diverse socio-environmental characteristics, such as Brazil, and developing more complete databases on circulating pathogens in commonly hunted mammals”, emphasizes Andreazzi, also author of the study.
Currently, Brazil combines socio-ecological vulnerabilities and an economic and political crisis that make the country a potential incubator of the next pandemic. This situation is based on the lack of knowledge of scientific evidence and attacks on conservation organizations, lax environmental laws and the implementation of destructive environmental policies.
“Our society still does not understand that we are part of nature and not separate from it. We cannot function without a healthy environment, inside and outside cities. But to achieve this change in mentality, we need the participation and pressure of a committed and conscious society so that better laws are made and effective measures are taken”, concludes Andreazzi.
Winck et al., Sci. Adv.8, eabo5774 (2022). Socioecological vulnerability and risk of emergence of zoonoses in Brazil. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abo5774