Like Poking a Beehive’: The Worrisome Link Between Deforestation And Disease

By Nathan Rott : npr – excerpt

In 2013, an 18-month old boy got sick after playing near a hollow tree in his backyard, in a remote West African village. He developed a fever and started vomiting. His stool turned black. Two days later, he died.

Two years and more than 11,000 deaths later, the World Health Organization put out a report saying the Ebola outbreak that likely emanated from that hollow tree may have been caused in part by deforestation, led by “foreign mining and timber operations.”

The tree the boy played near was infested with fruit bats — bats that may have been pushed into the boy’s village because upwards of 80 percent of their natural habitat had been destroyed.

“When you disturb a forest, it actually upsets, if you want, the balance of nature, the balance between pathogens and people,” says John E. Fa, a professor of biodiversity and human development at Manchester Metropolitan University, who was part of a team of researchers that linked recent forest loss to 25 Ebola outbreaks that have occurred since 1976.

A finding, he says, that showed a strong correlation between recent deforestation and disease outbreaks…

Zoonotic spillover

A disease that jumps from animals to humans is called a zoonosis. The jump itself — the event in which a pathogen jumps from animal to human or vice versa — is called a zoonotic spillover, or simply a spillover. And it’s more common than you might think.

Six out of every ten diseases in humans, and three-quarters of the world’s emerging infectious diseases, are zoonotic…(more)


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