Illustration: Axios on HBO

Addressing the coronavirus without paying attention to climate change and biodiversity crises would be a mistake, given the ways in which all three are interrelated, an expert in wildlife conservation told "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: If we fail to recognize the connection, we are likely to see more difficult-to-tackle diseases jump from animals to humans, the Wildlife Conservation Society's Joe Walston said in an interview.

Context: Much attention has focused on so-called "wet markets" in China, where lots of wild animals are held close together and sold to humans for consumption. Although diseases can spread from animals to humans in other settings, Walston said chances are greatly increased when animals are taken out of their natural habitats and put under stress and in close proximity to other animals.

  • Closing such markets would make it much harder for viruses like SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, to jump from animals to humans, he said.

The big picture: More than a billion people each year become sick from diseases related to animals, Walston said. Many of the most recent serious new diseases came from animals.

  • Removing wild animals from their environments disrupts their native ecosystems, which harms biodiversity and exacerbates climate change, he added.
  • "When you remove elephants from the forests of Central Africa, you've removed the major seed disperser and the major gardener of that system, and forests start to degrade," he said.

Between the lines: Walston threw cold water on the theory that the virus was created in a lab or even that a research lab played a role in its spread. "Before it got from that bat into humans, there was absolutely no evidence that it came from any laboratory."

Walston suggested that this dangerous moment for humanity could be a turning point in all three crises if we heed the warning.

  • "It actually, sadly, takes people to die on people's doorsteps, for people to die in people's families, for that wake-up call to happen, which is always inevitably later than it should be. But I believe that the world is realizing now that these are environmental problems, that they are going to happen again unless we take action."

The bottom line: The cycle could easily repeat and intensify if we fail to take appropriate action.

  • "We have the complete power to be able to destroy practically everything," Walston said.

Go deeper

Fauci: Coronavirus task force to examine aerosolized spread


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The White House coronavirus task force will examine more closely just how much SARS-CoV-2 might be transmitted via aerosols, and not just from droplets, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Wednesday at an online forum sponsored by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Why it matters: The longer the coronavirus can remain infectious in the air, the more likely it can infect people, particularly indoors — leading to the possible need to alter air filtration and circulation within buildings.

Updated Aug 6, 2020 - Technology

Facebook, Twitter take down Trump post saying kids are immune to coronavirus

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Facebook removed a video post from President Trump Wednesday in which he claimed in an interview with Fox News that children are "almost immune" to COVID-19.

Why it matters: It’s the first time that Facebook has removed content from Trump's account for violating policies on coronavirus-related misinformation.

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

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