Scientist and policy expert: Environmental protection can help prevent next pandemic

Scientist and policy expert: Environmental protection can help prevent next pandemic
Dr. Jamie Reaser shows off a frog that lives in her pond in Stanardsville. (Source: wvir)

STANARDSVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Doctor Jamie Reaser is leading an international team of colleagues in scientific and policy measures aimed at preventing future pandemics

A former executive director of the U.S. National Invasive Species Council, Reaser says how we use our land can impact the spread of a disease as contagious and deadly as COVID-19.

“Human health and environmental health are interrelated. If we care about protecting human health, we also need to care about protecting the environment,” Reaser said. “The disease started in bats in China and was transferred to people, and has continued to move from person to person.”

Reaser compares the intersection of environment and health to a domino effect, where one wrong decision can have global impacts.

“You have land use causing wildlife to get sick, to get diseased. And then when wildlife come in contact with people, as these dominoes fall, you have people potentially getting sick and dying from disease,” she said.

The pond at her Stanardsville home is an example of how it works: “How is a frog a health care provider?” Reaser asked.

The answer is a lot more simple than you’d think: Frogs eat mosquitoes, which can carry deadly viruses. If frogs are displaced or harmed, humans are more likely to be infected from the mosquitoes the frogs would’ve eaten.

Preventing the next pandemic and its fallout, Reaser said, starts with protecting our planet.

“It’s more economical to stop things before they ever start, and its the most ethical and moral way forward because we’re keeping animals and people from suffering,” she explained.

You don’t have to have an extensive knowledge in environmental or health policy in order to make a difference, Reaser explained.

“If you see a situation where streams are being filled in or areas are being cleared without proper decision making, bring that to your local planning and zoning commissions. Write letters to the editor.”

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