In an article in PNAS, the Independent Task Force on COVID-19 and other Pandemics focusses on the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and historically reviews previous RNA virus outbreaks. They identify critical intervention points to interrupt zoonotic transmission and translate this knowledge into recommendations.
At the heart of their argument is the so-called One Health approach. That means balancing and optimizing the health of people, animals, and ecosystems. One Health, according to the task force, is the right approach to prevent or mitigate an outbreak, and if necessary, to respond rapidly to prevent epidemic or pandemic spread. After all, it was most likely the close contact between animals and humans at the Wuhan animal market that led to the Covid-19 pandemic, the task force argues.
‘As climate change, land use patterns, and the growing wildlife trade in certain regions continue to create opportunities for zoonotic spillover of emerging infectious diseases, the solutions in this report have crucial implications for the global community for years to come. We must learn from past pandemics to prepare for success in anticipating, mitigating, and responding effectively to future pandemics’, says Koopmans, head of the department of Viroscience at the Erasmus MC and scientific director of the Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center.
The Independent Task Force Report makes the following recommendations:
- “Smart Surveillance” to identify high-threat potential pathogens. Targeting surveillance to people, wildlife, and domestic animals within emerging disease hot spots; improving methodologies for safe surveillance; and innovating a risk assessment framework to provide early warning of pathogens most likely to emerge.
- Preparedness and translational research. Investing in R&D for innovative and broad spectrum diagnostics, antiviral and vaccine strategies for priority pathogens based on data from ‘Smart Surveillance’; streamlining approaches to build capacity for clinical trials, licensure, and manufacture of medical countermeasures; and understanding the pathogenesis of potential high-threat pathogens to guide new therapeutic strategies.
- Reduce the drivers for spillover risk and spread. Working with communities and countries on the frontline of disease emergence to understand epidemiological, value chain, and behavioral drivers of EID emergence; implementing risk reduction strategies; developing incentives to minimize human-wildlife contact at interfaces in rural areas and commercial markets; and strengthening awareness of the emerging disease-linked health impacts and costs of land use and climate change to provide incentives for sustainable development.
- Counter misinformation and disinformation about the prevention and control of emerging diseases. Interdisciplinary research on what drives the emergence, spread and public acceptance of misinformation and disinformation in order to develop robust counter-mechanisms; develop strategies to counter distrust of science and expert advice, including creating organizations to support scientists under threat arising from disinformation and politically-motivated attacks; designing and promoting programs to improve public understanding of the scientific method and where to find trusted evidence-based scientific information.
- Strengthen One Health governance and science. Creating an inclusive, multi-stakeholder One Health-based governance framework at local, regional, national and international levels for pandemic preparedness and response; increasing funding for cross-disciplinary, collaborative One Health research; learning from indigenous knowledge; participation of civil society and engagement of public and private sector expertise; and efforts to educate new generations concerning the scientific method and reliable sources of information.