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As the world continues to fight against the coronavirus pandemic, activists have warned global warming could trigger a release of viruses from thousands of years ago stuck in permafrost. And, they claim humans are not immune.
Maxime Renaudin, founder and director of the Tree-Nation reforestation platform, said: “At the level of climate change, I consider that permafrost is the greatest fear.
“It is little known and its effects are poorly understood. It is a layer of soil that is permanently frozen.
“It covers approximately 20 percent of the earth’s surface. It includes Siberia, great part of Canada, Greenland.
“There is not an expert who can specify how much time we have left.
“Perhaps it is already too late. What we do know is that we are playing Russian roulette.”
Scientists have warned the permafrost is thawing at a rapid rate and could release deadly viruses which humans have not developed any immunity.
Mr Renaudin continued: “We have discovered that viruses are ultra-resistant.
“The simplest organisms in biology are able to wake up after so long.”
His concerns were echoed by Luis Suarez, conservation coordinator of WWF Spain, who revealed they have studied 33 viruses found in a Chinese glacier, but 28 were unknown to science.
Mr Suarez said: “In the deep layers of permafrost, and also in glaciers, there may be known viruses and bacteria, but others to be discovered.
“After studying the depths of a glacier in China, 33 viruses were detected, of which 28 were unknown to science.”
Cases of new viruses have already been reported after a 12-year-old boy died and another 20 people were hospitalised after being infected with anthrax found in the Arctic Circle back in 2016.
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Bones of a reindeer which was killed by the bacteria 75 years earlier were unearthed during an intense heatwave.
Cases of current coronavirus pandemic were first reported in Wuhan, China, last year with Chinese authorities claiming the virus spread from animals to humans.
But scientists have now warned there is an increase of disease of animal origins due to deforestation and human invasion on habitats that do not belong to them.
A recent WWF survey found more than 70 percent of human pathologies in the last 40 years have been transmitted by wild animals. Coronavirus is one of them.
Mr Suarez continued: “It is considered that zoonoses could represent the most important threat to the health of the world population in the future.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) itself has included the so-called ‘disease X’ in its list of the greatest threats to global health due to its epidemic potential.
“It would be a very important international epidemic due to a still unknown pathogen, but probably of animal origin, which could appear with devastating effects.
“We are not talking about science fiction, but about an increasing risk because we are increasingly altering our planet.
“Around 5,000 viruses are known, but it is estimated that there may be a million and a half or two million and modifying thew balances that exist in nature increases the chances of viruses jumping to humans.
“We live in moments of great uncertainty. We understand that we must leave room to see what the playing field will be, but there are decisions that cannot wait.
“Recovery has to be the lever to promote the new economic and social model.
“We have to take advantage of this impulse to go forward, not backwards.”
“With the means of transport and communication that exist today, once they are among people, they spread very easily,” Mr Renaudin warned.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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