What is a zoonotic disease?
A zoonotic disease is a disease that jumps from animals—wild or domestic—to humans. These jumps, known as spillovers, are increasingly common. In the case of COVID-19, the disease existed in bats then moved to another host animal before spilling over to the human population.
Zoonotic diseases are a stark reminder of how people and nature are interconnected. Human activities that encroach upon wild places increase our contact with wildlife and the risk of spillover events. To lower that risk, we must rebalance our relationship with nature.
As human pressures on nature grow, the frequency of zoonotic diseases have increased. Ebola, SARS, MERS, and Zika are just some of the zoonotic diseases that emerged over the last century. Today, the risk of another disease jumping from animals to people is higher than ever.
Key drivers of zoonotic disease
Lead image: Starting at the eye (ice cave) and going clockwise: © Nicolas Villaume / WWF-US, © Luis Barreto / WWF-UK, © Chris J Ratcliffe / WWF-UK, © Greg Armfield / WWF-UK, © Ola Jennersten / WWF-Sweden, © Luis Barreto / WWF-UK, © Neil Ever Osborne / WWF-US, © Shutterstock, © Photoshot License Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo, © Brent Stirton / Getty Images, © Global Warming Images / WWF, © Chris Johnson / WWF-Aus
Virus images: Ebola © CDC/ Dr. Frederick Murphy; SARS © CDC/ Charles.D. Humphrey and T.G. Ksiazek; MERS National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); H1N1 © CDC; Zika © CDC/ Cynthia Goldsmith, Dominique Rollin
Animation, design, and logo illustration: Seven Mile Media