The next pandemic may already have started, just look at ...

World

The next pandemic may already have started, just look at Covid-19’s origin

It takes one spark to cause a pandemic, and such pathogens are always jumping from animals to humans

Paul Nuki and Sarah Newey

Imagine you are a smoker who drives for a living. Every day you throw burning cigarette butts from the car. It’s happened many thousands of times without incident. The smouldering stub lands, bounces and dies. Occasionally one may singe a clump of grass. You drive on in blissful ignorance.

This analogy, say virologists, is a good way of thinking about zoonotic spillover events like the one that sparked the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic. They are happening all the time but are seldom noticed. Only very rarely, when environmental conditions are just right, do they spark a violent wildfire that spreads exponentially.

“These things happen every day around the world, and we miss them because we don’t focus enough on supporting surveillance of unusual illnesses in underserved and often distant rural communities”, says Dr Peter Daszak, the veteran virus hunter, and one of the world’s foremost experts on coronaviruses...

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