Stock - Environment degradation
If deforestation wasn't enough, air, soli and water pollution are also factors in disease spreads. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: A link between deforestation and COVID-19?

According to a new survey, festering issues the world faces such as deforestation, air, soil and water pollution and imperishable waste are ‘intrinsically linked to the increasing frequency and lethality of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19’. This is according to a study published by Elsevier in its journal ‘Hygiene and Environmental Health Advances’. The study was led by Sharjah-based Beeah Environmental Services.

The evidence-based review looked into studies of over 700,000 viruses derived from high-risk viral families observed since the 1980s. It found the risk of infectious zoonotic disease outbreaks could be mitigated and ultimately prevent the occurrence of pandemic outbreaks similar to COVID-19 in the future.

“Healthy environmental ecosystems create a sanitary barrier that limits the spread of disease,” Mohamed AlHosani, Chief Sustainability Officer at Beeah Group, a co-author on the study. “Additionally, protecting against the effects of climate change may play a significant role in minimising the impact and transmission of infectious diseases. Therefore, it is vital that we increase our focus on protecting the environment to improve our resilience to future pandemics.”

Deforestation is reported to increase susceptibility to COVID-19 due to wildfire induced pollution. Forest fragmentation and biodiversity loss have the ‘potential to proliferate the transmission of viruses and disease’.

“Deforestation will likely lead to environmental damage and the modification of zoonotic habitats, resulting in the increased frequency of human and domestic animal contact with wildlife reservoirs of potential zoonoses,” Dr. Hashem Stietiya, the Beeah Environment Services Director of Research and Development, a co-author on the study. “This increases the likelihood of our exposure to infectious diseases that are able to be transmitted between species, from animals to humans.”

Watch the air
Air quality has been a major area of focus for Beeah Environment Services. In a previous publication led by the University of Sharjah, it provided air quality data collected from its monitoring stations, contributing to insights derived time-series and statistical analyses.