Infectious diseases like coronavirus have become prevalent in recent years. SARs, Ebola and other diseases have increased in the past two decades as the climate heats up.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, the Interim Director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, spoke to Boston 25 News about the recent climate changes and how they’re linked to coronavirus and other diseases, “The best evidence that we have is that the number of these disease emergence events is going up.”

Bernstein said, “You realize that climate change could be driving this, and I think the smart response would be that we don’t want to play Russian roulette here. We’ve had several shots across the bow…HIV, influenza, SARS, MERS, COVID, and a host of others.”

As habitats shrink and the world becomes globalized, people are more at risk for diseases carried by animals. According to Bernstein, “Wild animals have viruses in their bodies all the time, which don’t necessarily make them sick, but when they get into people, they make us sick.”

Because we get closer to animals on a regular basis, due to reduced habitat and increased human population, risks of contracting disease are higher. David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic, wrote in the New York Times, “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”

Bernstein also points to increased air pollution as a growing concern for respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. Burning fossil fuels increases pollutants in the air and in our lungs. “There’s lots of research showing that people who breathe more air pollution are more likely to get sick from respiratory infections and more likely to die, and that includes young children,” said Bernstein.

He ended by saying, “The bottom line is that I don’t think anyone having lived through this moment, in this time with COVID, would think that it’s really wise to continue business as usual.”

Read more about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Check the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and check our latest article to learn how COVID-19 differs from the flu.

Scientists believe that the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, started at an exotic animal market in Wuhan, China. You can help stop the incidence of viruses like these by signing this petition to ban the wildlife trade.

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