Preventing pandemics before they start

A new international task force is aimed at stopping new diseases like COVID-19 from spreading from animals to humans.

The Scientific Task Force for Preventing Pandemics at the Source is being launched by the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) and the Harvard Global Health Institute. The task force includes seven scientific experts representing the world’s major geographic areas. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of Harvard Chan C-CHANGE, is leading the group.

“The conversation on prevention is entirely about vaccines and diagnostics and drugs and improving health systems, which are all critically important, but they’re missing the fundamental problem here, which is that we’re driving these pathogens into people through our actions that are destroying nature,” said Bernstein in a May 20, 2021, WBUR article. “And if we fail to address that, we can spend all the money in the world on tests and treatments and vaccines and still go through the year we had.”

Bernstein noted that diseases such as COVID-19 can leap from animals to humans in places where wild animals and people meet, such as in the wild animal trade or in areas where tropical forests are being cleared. The task force will focus on how this “spillover” happens, catalog interventions that have been successful in preventing disease emergence, and lay out a plan for preventing future spillover.

Read the WBUR article: The Best Way To Prevent The Next Pandemic? Maybe Saving Tropical Forests

Read the Harvard Chan C-CHANGE press release: Harvard Launches International Scientific Task Force to Prevent Pandemics at the Source