Could a zoonotic pandemic start in Latin America?


Studies of vampire bats in Peru may point to better ways of controlling diseases. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Streicker)

As a newly identified coronavirus sweeps the world, Latin American countries have had a slight advantage. The virus, SARS-CoV-2, emerged in China, country-hopped in Asia and took hold in Europe before cases of the illness it causes, Covid-19, cropped up in Latin America. That bought some time for countries to chart their response, with measures ranging from the lockdowns begun in Ecuador and Peru on March 16 to slower, far less urgent action by regional giants Brazil and Mexico. But it also raised some questions. Why have relatively few epidemic pathogens emerged in Latin America? Could a virus in Latin American animals nevertheless infect humans and set off a global pandemic? “In the broadest sense, definitely yes,” says Marcela Uhart, who heads the Latin America program at the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis. “Such a zoonotic virus could potentially emerge anywhere where... [Log in to read more]

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