Can Forests Spread Disease?


There are many health benefits to having forests in our environment. Scientists and environmentalists have been warning governments to stop deforestation due to the detrimental effects. It has an impact on the spread of diseases that we have around today.

Forests do not necessarily spread diseases, but this can happen due to deforestation. When forests are destroyed, diseases that were once incubated and in equilibrium in these environments spread, exposing other habitats, animals, and humans. 

Nearly half of the world’s land is used for agriculture, with our natural forests mainly being affected. When trying to stop and prevent deforestation, it helps know the causes and ways to avoid it. 

How Do Forests Increase The Spread Of Disease?

Many scientists have warned society and governments to save our forests for many decades. They have done a lot of research on the benefits of forests and the devastating causes of deforestation. Scientists have been researching diseases and viruses for many years, discovering their origin and means of spreading. 

They discovered that many of the diseases and viruses we have been exposed to for many years have come from wild animals living in forests. Some of these diseases and viruses include:

  • Severe Acute Respiratory Disease (SARS)
  • Coronavirus 19
  • Nipah and Lassa viruses 
  • Ebola
  • HIV
  • Malaria 
  • Lyme disease 
  • Dengue fever

There are many reasons why forests are needed to improve human health and why deforestation can cause many environmental problems.

The Equilibrium Is Destroyed Due To Deforestation

Diseases within the human population, such as coronavirus, malaria, and dengue fever, can be life-threatening. When these viruses are in equilibrium and isolated in an ecosystem such as a forest, it is very unlikely for them to come into contact with humans. 

When these habitats are destroyed by deforestation, humans move into these environments. The communities that move into this environment become exposed to these viruses and diseases, which can cause a wider spread to surrounding communities. 

When forests are destroyed, animals have to find food and shelter elsewhere. This results in the movement of animals, such as rats, primates, bats, and insects (mosquitos and ticks), carrying diseases that can be dangerous to humans to more populated areas. When they move to these areas, they may come into contact with fruit or animals that are farmed for human consumption spreading this disease.   

Forests Form A Shield

These viruses don’t severely affect indigenous communities living in these forests because their immune systems have adapted to their environment. These diseases are well isolated because the indigenous people don’t come into contact with many people from the outside. This is not the same as urban areas; infections in these areas spread very quickly due to the high movement of people with our advanced transportation system. 

Let’s consider Covid-19, which was first isolated in one country, but due to the high travel within that country and throughout the world, it spread very quickly and has become a worldwide pandemic. 

Causes Of Deforestation 

Deforestation is caused by society wanting to put up new agriculture developments and infrastructure. Although we may need this, it is crucial to look at the disadvantages that come from it. Cutting down our forests leads to an increase in pandemics occurring, destruction of natural environments where animals live, and lowering our oxygen supply as forests are our primary source. 

Governments are not looking at the risks of destroying forests but instead on dealing with the consequences. For example, scientists have found evidence indicating that disease outbreaks are caused due to deforestation. Still, instead of stopping or controlling it, they focus on providing vaccinations after the disease or virus has broken out. 

Many governments cut down forests due to the financial benefits acquired from farms and other infrastructure. Ecohealth Alliance researchers studied how much money is spent treating people with malaria in Malaysia, which broke out due to deforestation and is increasing due to continuous deforestation. 

They found that for every person who contracts malaria, $5 000 is spent on treatment. This is higher than what they spend on malaria control. When looking at these costs over time, you will see that the financial benefits are not worth the ramifications. 

Other causes of deforestation include forest fires, illegal and unsustainable logging, overharvesting fuelwood, mining, and climate change. 

How To Decrease The Spread And Risk Of Diseases From Forests?

It is essential to understand the connections between these diseases and the destruction of natural habitats to discover a solution. There are steps that can be followed to reduce the spread of infection to other communities and countries. We will need more educational campaigns, medical centers and monitoring, and health training. 

Researches such as Ecohealth Alliance are investigating viruses and diseases in these natural habitats, which can help prepare governments and medical staff before pandemics break out. This can help with the development of vaccines before an outbreak occurs and improve inadequate health systems in high-risk areas. 

It can also help discourage the destruction of forests because of the increased risk to society. The easiest and best preventative method is to stop deforestation, which benefits the community as forests are very important for our environment.

There are other ways that society can help reduce the amount of land needed for agriculture, reducing deforestation. This includes reducing food waste, eating less meat which will also improve your health, and reducing the consumption of processed foods which reduces the need for palm oil. 

Improving crop yield per hectare of land by developing drought and pest-resistant crops will also reduce the amount of land needed. The government should also increase laws and restrictions on the sale of wild animals as food and pets.

The increase in the amount of land needed is also directly affected by the size of the population. Slowing population growth in many countries will be very helpful; this can be done with better education, equal social status, job opportunities, and access to reasonably priced contraceptives. 

What Are The Benefits Of Forests On Human Health?

There are many reasons why forests are needed for environmental conservation and promoting human health. 

Forests Are Important For Human And Animal Survival

Forests are essential for ecosystems and the survival of wildlife. Forests house a large number of our animal population; this biodiversity is necessary to sustain the Earth’s ecosystems. Three hundred million people live in forests worldwide; sixty million of these are indigenous people groups who depend on the forests for survival. Trees are vital for many health reasons, one being the production of oxygen.

Forests Influence Weather Conditions And Environmental Disasters

Trees influence our weather patterns. They not only cool our Earth by providing shade, but they also help reduce global warming by absorbing excess CO2 for [photosynthesis in our atmospheres. They also influence our weather patterns by promoting rainfall in surrounding regions and regions that are thousands of miles away.  

The forest trees help reduce floods by increasing water absorption through the soil, and their roots reduce soil erosion caused by heavy rainfall. This water moves into the aquifers that replenish groundwater that is needed for drinking, irrigation, and sanitation for surrounding communities.

There may be toxic chemicals in urban areas and industrial areas that could be washed away by rainwater. The absorption of this water into the soil will reduce the contamination of rivers flowing downstream. Soil that may be contaminated by certain pollutants can be cleaned through the tree roots system by phytoremediation.

Conclusion

If deforestation continues, it will lead to more pandemics and diseases spreading throughout the country and the world. Some of these diseases can be predicted now, which may help prevent or reduce deforestation. 

Many people living on the frontiers of these forests that may be cleared for farms are becoming nervous due to the increased risk of a new pandemic arising. 

There is no need to continue with the destruction of forests as they cause pandemics increasing human deaths that were not necessary. We cannot rely on producing vaccines months after a pandemic has started and risking people’s lives when it could be easily prevented.

John

Johns fascination with science, nature and the world started from a young age. His curious mind led him to pursue an education in the sciences and now he loves sharing interesting info with the world.

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