COVID-19 is one of countless emerging infectious diseases that are zoonotic, meaning they originate in animals. About 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, accounting for billions of illnesses and millions of deaths annually across the globe.
When these diseases spill over to humans, the cause frequently is human behaviors, including habitat destruction and the multibillion-dollar international wildlife trade – the latter being the suspected source of the novel coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to impose severe restrictions, such as social distancing, that will have massive economic costs. But there has been less discussion about identifying and changing behaviors that contribute to the emergence of zoonotic diseases. As a conservation biologist, I believe this outbreak demonstrates the urgent need to end the global wildlife trade.
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