Explained: Why have Africa, Asia seen so many dangerous viruses emerge recently?

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: Why have Africa, Asia seen so many dangerous viruses emerge recently?” published in Indian Express on 31st July 2022.

What is the News?

Monkeypox, coronavirus, zika and ebola are names that have become all too familiar over the last few years. Many of these diseases were first reported in either Asia or Africa.

How are viruses discovered?

Many viruses simply exist in nature without causing harm to life around them. Many that live in animals do not get detected for a long time until they come in contact with humans through animals. These are zoonotic diseases — and Covid-19, monkeypox and ebola as well as older diseases like the plague or rabies are examples.

Hence, the discovery of new viruses is often linked to outbreaks of diseases.

Where are the most viruses found?

According to World Health Organization’s Disease Outbreak News, the majority of cases were reported in Asian and/or African countries. 

For instance, there was a 63% increase in the number of zoonotic outbreaks in Africa between 2012 and 2022 compared to 2001 and 2011.

Why are viruses being found in Asia and Africa so often?

Greater Human-Animal Interaction: Humans in these continents have a greater chance of coming in contact with animals more often in their many densely populated regions, thus increasing the risk of the spread of diseases.

Part of Transformation: This is part of the transformative change that many countries are undergoing in these regions. For instance, countries like the UK to an extent went through a similar experience when they underwent industrialisation in the 18th and 19th centuries and faced diseases like cholera and typhoid.

Rapid Urbanization: In Africa, infections originating in animals and then jumping to humans have been happening for centuries, but the risk of mass infections and deaths has been relatively limited in Africa. Poor transport infrastructure acted as a natural barrier.

– However, now due to rapid growth in urbanization and infrastructure development, as well as the clearing of biodiversity-rich areas has led to more interactions among species in the last few decades.

Dense forests and the culture of consuming wildlife: Asia has its own set of contributing factors: the dense forests and the culture of consuming wildlife — both for food and as traditional medicine. Wet markets where live animals are packed together and displayed for sale have particularly come under focus due to the belief that Covid-19 could have jumped from multiple species kept together.

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