17 Mar Species Distancing : Flattening The Curve On Zoonotic Diseases
Collective action taken today can limit the rise of new zoonotic diseases and mitigate the risk of future pandemics. And yet, while touting the benefits of social distancing, the mainstream media does not breathe a word about species distancing: maintaining a respectful distance between homo sapiens sapiens (translation: the wise, wise primate species) and other animal species so that zoonotic diseases are not contracted needlessly.
The COVID-19 virus, the Marburg virus, the Ebola virus, the Nipah virus, the SARS virus, the MERS virus, the H7N9 bird flu, the H1N1 Swine flu and the seasonal flu can all be traced to have originated from other species. When humans kill 1-3 trillion animals annually to dine on their bodies and secretions, viruses are bound to jump from the victim species to the consuming species. This is how biology works.
The Marburg virus jumped from bats to monkeys to humans in Germany in 1967, infected nearly 600 people and killed nearly 500 of them.
The Ebola virus also jumped from fruit bats to humans in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, has infected about 34,000 people and killed about 15,000 of them to date.
The Nipah virus jumped from pigs to humans in Malaysia in 1999, infected nearly 500 people and killed over half of them.
The SARS virus is thought to have jumped from bats to civets to humans in China in 2002, infected over 8000 people and killed about 800 of them.
The MERS virus jumped from camels to humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012, infected nearly 2500 people and killed nearly 900 of them.
The H7N9 bird flu is thought to have jumped from chickens to humans in China in 2013, infected over 1500 people and killed over 600 of them.
The H1N1 swine flu pandemic originated in the US and Mexico in 2009, infected nearly a billion people and killed over 120,000 of them. This virus now circulates as a seasonal flu virus and causes illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths every year. Seasonal flu viruses infect about a billion people and cause over 300,000 deaths each year world wide.
Therefore, the COVID-19 virus, which has literally locked down our lives and nearly shut down the world economy, is just the latest zoonotic disease. It is thought to have jumped from bats to pangolins to humans in China in 2019, and to date, it has infected nearly 200,000 people and killed about 8000 of them. It’s a result of us not implementing species distancing requirements even though Nature has been sending us clear messages for ages.
Therefore, while implementing social distancing from our loved ones to avoid COVID-19 infections, should we not also implement species distancing by eliminating the consumption of animal products? That would be the true hallmark of homo sapiens sapiens, the “wise, wise primate” species.
Perhaps it might help if we acquired a bit of humility and stopped calling ourselves homo sapiens sapiens, the “wise, wise primate” species. I vote for “holo ahimsa,” the “nonviolent, whole” species as we shed our predator role, heal together during this enforced period of solitary confinement and rejoin the family of life as a caretaker species when this pandemic ends, akin to the caterpillar turning into a butterfly.