Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission

6 July 2020. 18h CET. Report Launch – Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission

This year, with the outbreak of COVID-19 having affected every country in the world, UNEP and researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute have conducted a scientific assessment to consolidate knowledge and identify areas of policy focus. Titled Preventing the Next Pandemic: zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, the assessment is to be published in July.

Full report United Nations Environment Programme and International Livestock Research Institute (2020). Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission. Nairobi, Kenya. 82 pages. Lead Author Delia Grace Randolph (Natural Resources Institute, NRI, of the University of Greenwich, and International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya).
Key messages – English

The assessment identifies seven trends driving the increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases – those which jump between animal and human populations – and offers ten practical steps that governments can take to prevent future zoonotic outbreaks.

  1. increasing human demand for animal protein; 
  2. unsustainable agricultural intensification; 
  3. increased use and exploitation of wildlife; 
  4. unsustainable utilization of natural resources accelerated by urbanization, land use change and extractive industries; 
  5. increased travel and transportation; 
  6. changes in food supply; and 
  7. climate change.
UNEP and ILRI are urging governments to embrace an inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary approach called One Health. It calls on states not only to buttress their animal as well as human healthcare systems, but also to address factors – like environmental degradation and increased demand for meat –that make it easier for diseases to jump species. Specifically, it encourages states to promote sustainable agriculture, strengthen food safety standards, monitor and help improve traditional food markets, invest in technology to track outbreaks, and provide new job opportunities for people who trade in wildlife.

The authors warn that further outbreaks will emerge unless governments take active measures to prevent more zoonotic diseases from crossing into the human population, and advocate for a One Health approach to human, animal and environmental health as the optimal way to prevent and respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks and pandemics.

The assessment recommends ten policy response options to reduce the risk of future zoonotic pandemics and to ‘build back better’: 
  1. raise awareness of health and environment risks and prevention; 
  2. improve health governance, including by engaging environmental stakeholders; 
  3. expand scientific inquiry into the environmental dimensions of zoonotic diseases; 
  4. ensure full-cost financial accounting of the societal impacts of disease; 
  5. enhance monitoring and regulation of food systems using risk-based approaches; 
  6. phase out unsustainable agricultural practices; 
  7. develop and implement stronger biosecurity measures; 
  8. strengthen animal health (including wildlife health services); 
  9. build capacity among health stakeholders to incorporate environmental dimensions of health; and 
  10. mainstream and implement One Health approaches

These policy options are discussed in detail in Section Five of this report.

The launch event was Live on UN Web TV

  • Ms. Inger Andersen – Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Mr. Jimmy Smith – Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
In an interview UNEP Chief of Wildlife, Doreen Robinson and Professor of Veterinary Infectious Diseases at the University of Liverpool, Eric Fèvre discussed how we might prevent and manage zoonotic diseases in the future.

Robinson: The relationship between the environment and the emergence and spread of disease is very complex. In the last century, our environment has changed tremendously: population growth and associated altering of land for settlements, agriculture, logging, extractive industries or other uses has led to habitat and biodiversity loss. This has created many opportunities for pathogens to pass between animals and people as the natural buffers between humans and animals have disappeared. We also know that higher levels of native biodiversity has been associated with reduced transmission of some zoonotic diseases.


This is the online webinar by Ask a Scientist Live | Ep. 1 – XR Scientists, and the subject is: “Does our destruction of the natural world increase the spread of disease?” A panel of three world-renowned scientific experts and a science writer are answering direct questions from a live audience, giving you a great opportunity to learn about the origin, causes and impact of the transmission of disease from wildlife to humans.
  1. Eric Fèvre, ILRI joint appointed scientist and chair of Infectious Zoonotic Diseases at the University of Liverpool; 
  2. Kate Jones, chair of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College London; 
  3. Beth Purse, Monkey Fever Risk project leader at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; and 
  4. David Quammen, American science journalist and author of the book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

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