• Bruce Smith

Spillover: Emerging Disease Threats


A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature in April discussed how interactions between people and animals are at the heart of emerging disease threats. It identified roughly 10,000 viruses with the potential to infect humans—the vast majority of which, researchers said, are already “circulating silently in wild mammals.” Global climate change and evolving land-use patterns will increase the potential for cross-species viral transmission as animals that were once geographically isolated begin to have increased contact with people, according to the study.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein of Harvard University said we know that sharing of habitats, the wildlife trade, and large livestock operations are engines that drive emerging infections risk. "There’s value in protecting forests," he said, "because the prevention of spillover doesn’t just matter to humans, it is also good wildlife conservation."