Is the Wuhan virus going to be the next SARS, bird flu or Ebola virus? Only in the coming weeks will we know how serious this pandemic could become, but it’s not the first horrible disease humans have contracted from animals, and as long as humans continue to eat animals, it’s certainly not going to be the last.
The shameful response of covering up outbreaks that took place during the SARS epidemic was certainly one of the major reasons that it became a pandemic so quickly, just as it has been with African swine fever virus more recently, and if the Guardian article is anything to go by, then the Wuhan virus may also end up becoming a major world health issue.
From the first article from the ABC you can understand quite simply the clear connection between the way we farm and eat animals, and how these diseases then spread from animals to humans, often recombining with harmless human viruses to make deadly strains.
Such diseases are known as zoonotic diseases, or a ‘zoonosis’ as a singular noun, and ‘zoonoses’ in the plural form. In addition to the zoonoses of HIV, Ebola, MERS, SARS, avian influenza, and Spanish flu, other deadly, devastating diseases such as Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (“mad cow disease”) and plague were all originally diseases in animals, but spread to humans because of humans eating infected animals or getting infected from captive or farmed animals intended to be eaten.
If you haven’t got the moral courage to give up eating meat to save the environment, or because you don’t really care about animal rights, how about giving it up to prevent these diseases from continually appearing?