“Scientists have been accused of overreacting and crying wolf over the threat of virus outbreaks after the influenza pandemic of 2009,” Lipkin told the Observer. “Sars [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] didn’t progress beyond a few locations, but outbreaks and pandemics will occur and we need to get our heads out of the sand and realise the real risks that we face. More than three-quarters of all emerging infectious diseases originate when microbes jump from wildlife to humans.
“Our vulnerability to such diseases has been heightened by the growth in international travel and the globalisation of food production. In addition, deforestation and urbanisation continue to displace wildlife, increasing the probability that wild creatures will come in contact with domesticated animals and humans.”
Lipkin says societies need to be more proactive in combating the dangers. “People need to understand that science is critical to address these kinds of challenges and respond in real time,” he said. “We need to be prepared.