COVID-19 and the Next Pandemic

by | Jun 1, 2020

COVID-19

As the world slows down to help flatten the curve in order to order to halt the spread of the Coronavirus, which leads to the disease known as COVID-19, analysts and talking heads are positing how the world moves forward once this crisis is over. One thing that is not being talked about, on a large scale, however, is how likely it is that another pandemic can happen. How, you ask? By another zoonotic transmission between the animals that humans consume. While it is one thing to point the finger at the wet markets in China that have been identified of the source of this outbreak, realizing that another outbreak could be brewing is not unrealistic.

There has been a long history of viruses borne from human interactions with animals, including, H1N1, swine flu, and now COVID-19. Similarly, outbreaks of salmonella and e. coli have been tied to consumption of animal products in the past. In the Chinese city of Wuhan, the origin of this latest version of the Coronavirus has been linked to so-called “wet markets,” where all manners of wild animals are bought and sold for human consumption.

Wet markets also exist in the United States to a smaller degree, but perhaps the greatest equivalent to the wet markets in China are large industrial-sized livestock farming operations, sometimes referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs.  These massive operations are breeding grounds for disease and cross-contamination, where animals are housed practically on top of each other. Certainly, this is problematic for the animals, but it also presents problems for humans, as detailed by the Sierra Club:

  • CAFOs may cause health effects to their neighbors from pollution damage to the air, land and water.
  • Over 168 gases are emitted from CAFO waste, including hazardous chemicals such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane.
  • Hydrogen sulfide poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage, dizziness, headache, nausea, sore throats, sinusitis, burning eyes, and other illnesses.
  • When phosphorus and nitrogen are over-applied to fields, the nutrients can move through the soil into field tiles to surface water, or through soil to groundwater and drinking water.
  • Elevated levels of nitrates in drinking water can cause “blue baby syndrome,” a potentially fatal blood disorder.

It’s clear that it is time for us to reconsider our treatment of and commodification of animals, if not only for the protection of the animals, but also for the protection of the human race and the elimination of future pandemics that could lead to more quarantine-like situations and the collapse of economic and health systems across the world.

AUTHORS

Aimee Douglass is the Director of Compassionate Living. She has been a volunteer with HAP since 2018. She is an active participant in the Compassionate Living campaign and in 2019 tabled at her first event for HAP. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in Penn Hills with her husband and their three dogs.

Hannah Lewis is the Assistant Blogger and grant writer at HAP. She has been working with HAP since July of 2020. By day, she works as a literacy educator. She is an avid hiker, but also loves to spend time indoors curled up with a book and her long-haired cat, Frejya.