Disease is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic — they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife. Conservation efforts must focus on ways of managing forests, wildlife and livestock to prevent diseases from leaving the woods and becoming the next pandemic.
In the Amazon, for example, one study showed an increase in deforestation by some 4 percent increased the incidence of malaria by nearly 50 percent, because mosquitoes, which transmit the disease, thrive in the right mix of sunlight and water in recently deforested areas. Developing the forest in the wrong way can be like opening Pandora’s box. These are the kinds of connections new teams of biologists are unraveling.