How can the globe avoid a future pandemic?

Covid-19 is closely related to viruses that infect bats, but the animal species that acted as the intermediary host who passed the disease on to humans is still unknown.

As scientists continue to search for the mystery animal, how is it possible to prevent a future pandemic if the origins of the novel coronavirus still remains unclear?

As 60% of infectious diseases that infect humans come from animals, many medical experts believe we should be taking preventative measures to help avoid another outbreak by adopting the "One Health" approach.

One Health, which is advocated by the World Health Organisation, is designed to implement policies and programmes where professionals with a range of expertise like vets, doctors and environmental scientists can join forces and share data to help avert another pandemic.

How would One Health detect an emerging disease?

Greg Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Duke University told ITV News that a global One Health strategy would be able to predict where outbreaks might occur by surveilling places where humans and animals come into frequent contact, such as live animal markets, meat processing centres and heavy poultry markets.

A global One Health strategy would be able to predict where outbreaks might occur by surveilling places where humans and animals come into frequent contact. Credit: ITV News

He said: "If we could work with veterinarians and human health personnel to study the workers and animals then we can get ahead of these viruses and pathogens that may be attempting to affect the workers".

By doing this, Professor Gray believes the medical and scientific community would have "several years advance on the pathogens before they become highly transmissible to man".

Has the One Health approach detected any diseases before?

Using collaborative efforts between human health and animal health specialists, Professor Gray's team were able to detect Influenza Virus D in poultry that hadn't been discovered before, they were also able to find evidence of an unusual respiratory virus called Adenoviruses in people with pneumonia.

What can we learn from the outbreak of Covid-19?

Professor Steve Osofsky, the director of Cornell Wildlife Health Centre, believes the world can learn from this crisis and take steps towards mitigating the risks of a future pandemic by ending unnecessary wildlife trade.

"If we don't need to be consuming wildlife transported from all over the world for our basic nutritional needs then we have to be very pragmatic and recognise that the risks of these activities far exceed the benefits to a very small subset of people," he said.

The director of Cornell Wildlife Health Centre, Professor Steve Osofsky. Credit: ITV News

As well as environmental and health factors, Osofsky believes economic factors should also be taken into account.

"If a given species sells for three dollars a pound, but the global cost of that transaction is closer to maybe 30 million dollars a pound, but that seller and that buyer aren't the ones bearing those costs, we all are, that type of transaction doesn't make economic sense in today's world," he added.

Health experts hope that we can learn from the coronavirus and previous outbreaks involving animals, they hope the One Health preventative approach will be implemented into public policy to reduce the risk of future pandemics, but it'll only work if there is collaboration across all governments.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know