Then every future pandemic is on us. Sorry, but it is true. Because the way we farm, hunt, sell and eat animals is a massive underlying vector.
Zoonotic viruses almost always leap to humans directly from our livestock or from wildlife, the slaughter and hunting of which bring susceptible human hosts in particularly close contact with live animals and their infected tissues and fluids.
Both farmed and caged wild animals create the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases. Extraordinarily high population densities, prolonged heightened stress levels, poor sanitation, and unnatural diets create a veritable speed-dating event for viruses to rendezvous with a weakened human host and transcend the species barrier. In fact, we know that this happens routinely—it’s a simple throw of the dice for one of these leaps to coincide with subtle adaptations that allow the virus to transmit more efficiently from human to human. Swapping host species often allows pathogens to take a more sinister turn, causing severe illness or death in their new host despite only triggering mild symptoms in their animal reservoir.
Time and again, zoonotic viruses emerge from these contexts: wave after wave of avian flu, swine flu, Nipah virus … the list goes on.
Of course, this is reason #363 why humanity needs to shift to a plant-based diet. But it is a major, and at the moment, highly relevant one. After this is all over, will anyone pay attention?