ASU expert proposes a biodiversity-focused solution to prevent zoonotic diseases

Headshot of Leah Gerber

COVID-19 may have jumped from a wild animal market in Wuhan, China, to people. If so, it’s not the first deadly disease to spring from nature. Middle East respiratory syndrome is said to have a source at a camel market in Saudi Arabia. In the United States, the H1N1 swine flu originated in factory farms where animals are held in extreme confinement. And Ebola likely had its start in a chimpanzee habitat in West Africa.

A rising chorus is calling for wildlife markets to be shut down across the globe.

Leah Gerber, a professor of conservation science and the founding director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes at Arizona State University, is going further than calling for a ban on the practice. She’s proposing the creation of a global body to monitor and enforce solutions that prevent zoonotic leaps of disease, a position she explained in a recently published op-ed. To get a clearer picture of what the proposed agency would look like and how it would operate, ASU Now interviewed Gerber.