Dealing with pandemics cannot rest merely on mitigation. It must focus on deep prevention and synchronization with other policy objectives such as halting global warming. It must address all sources and vectors of zoonoses: legal trade in wildlife, poaching and wildlife trafficking, and habitat destruction.

Many of the action-points proposed below are resource-intensive. Implementing some will require international assistance to poor countries lacking capacities for implementation. Some will be politically unpopular: Both legal extractive industries and illegal economies often powerful lobbies to prevent, hijack, and subvert regulatory agendas. Poor regulation and illicit economies thrive in the context of corruption, particularly when it pervades the highest levels of governments. Prevailing over vested interests and corruption requires sustained domestic and international pressure. But at stake are tens of millions of lives and tens of trillions of dollars that no government should want to lose.

Implementation of the steps below will not take place overnight. It will be a gradual process of policies being changed, regulatory and enforcement systems being strengthened, and habits and practices being altered. Nonetheless, even a gradual adoption that does not achieve full compliance would reduce the speed and frequency with which zoonotic diseases emerge and flare up into pandemics.

  1. Phasing out unhygienic markets in wild animal meat and live animals
  2. Enforcement of bans
  3. Reducing demand for wild animals and products that threaten health and biodiversity
  4. Smarter, tighter, healthier legal trade
  5. Intensifying efforts against poaching and wildlife trafficking
  6. Preserving native habitats

Read the full article about preventing future pandemics by Vanda Felbab-Brown at Brookings.