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Our Expert Voices conversation on emerging diseases.

The vast majority of infectious diseases that plague us come from animals, in particular from wild mammals. Think SARS, Ebola, Zika, and HIV – the deadliest zoonoses of them all.

It's urgent that we better understand where, from what species, and how these diseases are jumping into people. This almost always involves people meddling with the environment – in which viruses are part of the delicate balance. Rampant deforestation, wildlife trade, urbanization, and globalization are increasing our chances, year-by-year, of the next 'big one' making the jump.

Mathematical models represent a powerful tool to tease out the underlying causes of disease emergence, and prioritize wildlife species likely to harbor the next zoonoses. In recent work, we found that bats carry more zoonotic viruses than other mammals and that a large number of the "missing zoonoses" carried by these mammals may be in South America. In East Africa, hoofed animals may be harboring more zoonotic viruses and along the equator there are clusters of primate-borne viruses.

Bottom line: There are over 5,000 mammal species on the planet and likely many thousands of undiscovered viruses that could infect us. It's urgent we develop new analytical tools to sort through the noise and prioritize disease surveillance efforts on the ground to find and characterize as-yet-undiscovered zoonoses before they cause the next pandemic.

Other voices in the conversation:Thumbi Mwangi, veterinarian, Washington State University: Control small diseases to be ready for big onesAnne Rimoin, epidemiologist, UCLA: Watch where people and animals interactJustin Lessler, epidemiologist, Johns Hopkins University: It's not where a virus comes from but how it becomes contagious

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 8 wounded

Police cars restrict access to Oxford High School following the shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after a shooting at a Michigan high school that left three people dead and eight others wounded Wednesday, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a briefing Tuesday night that the suspect's father had on Friday bought the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol investigators believe was used in the shooting at Oxford High School. Authorities released the names of the victims late Tuesday.

City Council member Andre Dickens wins Atlanta mayoral race

Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens in Atlanta, Georgia, late Tuesday. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, soundly beating the council's president Felicia Moore.

The big picture: Dickens was just a few months ago considered to have an outside chance of replacing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term.

UN report: Pandemic set to cost global tourism $2 trillion in 2021

A tourist in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Nov. 25. Photo:Chesnot/Getty Images

A new United Nations report warns that global tourism will see only modest revenue gains in 2021 after last year's historic losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Tourism revenues in 2020 fell by more than half from the previous year — a significant blow to the global economy, according to analysis by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).