How $20 billion can prevent the next COVID-19?

This cost might seem high, but it's a sharp contrast to how much COVID-19 has cost globally, racking up a minimum estimate of $8.1 trillion.

A vendor works at a wet market in China (photo credit: REUTERS)
A vendor works at a wet market in China
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Protecting the world from another zoonotic disease outbreak following the coronavirus pandemic will have an annual cost of over $22 billion at minimum, NBC News reported.
According to a study published in the academic journal Science, monitoring and protecting forests and the wildlife trade would rack up a total price ranging from $2.2b. to a hefty $30.7b.
This cost might seem high, but it's a sharp contrast to how much COVID-19 has cost globally, racking up a minimum estimate of $8.1 trillion.
Due to the high cost of the current pandemic, it seems obvious that stopping a new zoonotic outbreak is in everyone's best interests, according to Andrew Dobson, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University and the lead author of the study, adding that new epidemics seem to emerge every four or five years.
This effort would need to be extensive, investing in research and virus libraries to speed up vaccine developments as well as cutting back on deforestation and restricting and monitoring livestock and the wildlife trade to prevent disease spillover at the source, Dobson said, according to NBC News.
Speeding up vaccine research may seem self-evident in light of the highly publicized global research efforts in developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. In addition, though, the close monitoring of wildlife trade and the environment are especially important for stopping zoonotic diseases.
Humans are often exposed to disease-ridden wildlife when they begin encroaching on natural environments. This significantly raises the risk of potential disease spillover, NBC News reported, adding that climate change can also influence the timing and method of disease emergence.
In addition, the wildlife trade poses a very high risk of spreading zoonotic diseases. This is especially evident with the coronavirus, which is widely suspected of having begun in a wet market in the city of Wuhan in China. These markets and trade industries are not limited to China, however, and exist in countries around the world. Even Israel is no exception, where a market exists for local animals illegally hunted by poachers, such as gazelles and porcupines.
Globally, the illegal wildlife trade is a very profitable industry. According to the World Bank, the industry in 2016 has a value of around $23b. This is especially jarring compared to the comparatively minuscule budgets of organizations responsible for monitoring and combating illegal wildlife trade.
Scientists are calling for these agencies to be given annual budgets of $500 million, as well as for greater funding for agencies to monitor the livestock industry, which is where diseases such as avian and swine flu can emerge. This is in addition to the money that would need to be allocated to monitoring health and protecting forest ecosystems.
But even with this high cost, it isn't entirely unfeasible, with it being a drop in the bucket compared to the funding allocated to other sectors, Dobson explained, according to NBC News.
"If you're worried about safety and protection, the cost of doing this is less than 2% of the military spending by the top 10 militarized countries in the world."