The Next Pandemic: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

moving on our main story tonight concerns pandemics you know the thing every little virus could one day grow into wait even me yeah maybe even you mystery virus wow that's great thanks for helping me believe in myself john now if you'll excuse me i'm off to the mall of america okay have fun i'm probably going to regret that and i know you might be thinking right now john shut the up no one wants to hear any more about the coronavirus and i do get that which is why we're not actually going to talk about the current pandemic tonight we're going to talk about the next one instead which i know sounds even less appealing but look we are the show we are if you want to see a british person do something hot or interesting go watch bridgeton lot of in blankets on that show however much you expect there's significantly more but now might also be the most important time to talk about this because scientists attempted to warn us about the next pandemic long before the current one hit and we didn't really listen in fact 17 years ago just after the sars epidemic was contained a leading scientist was on 60 minutes sounding a chilling warning what worries me the most is that we're going to miss the next emerging disease that we're going to suddenly find a sars virus that moves from one part of the planet to another wiping out people as it moves along something more lethal than sars is what worries you that's something to be keeping you awake at night uh yeah it is because that is a hauntingly spot-on prediction there i kind of wanted him to continue uh just spitballing here what if that guy from the apprentice becomes president or some lonely goon at harvard invents a website that destroys the fabric of society as we know it that's something to keep you awake at night too look i know this current coronavirus might feel like a once in a lifetime nightmare but it's actually part of a global trend because the total number of infectious disease outbreaks has increased significantly since 1980.

We've seen outbreaks like sars in 2003 h1n1 in 2009 a series of ebola outbreaks most notably in 2014 mers in 2015 zika that same year and of course the current virus that we're all enjoying which is the main reason why i am currently speaking to you completely alone from what looks like the pillsbury doughboy's ass crack and the truth is if we're not very careful the next pandemic could well be even worse there are viruses currently circulating in wildlife they essentially kill 60 to 70 percent of the people they infect the virus that causes covet 19 might just be a dress rehearsal for the big one later this is not by any stretch of the imagination uh the worst mother nature has to offer us well that doesn't sound great and look i know this isn't the most important thing there but what is it with disease experts and predicting upcoming pandemics while on boats that's a terrible use of a boat they're supposed to be chill read the boat rules one the captain's always right two only fish on days that end in y and three no grim tidings at the voral apocalypse did you hear that that's a boat foul dr bummer indeed and while you would hope that the last year would have been a wake-up call to everyone those who study pandemics are skeptical that we've learned nearly enough i think the what i've seen in history of looking at these pathogens over time is that we usually go right back to business as usual as soon as the thing ends as soon as we have a drug as soon as we have a vaccine as soon as we can kind of get away these diseases into marginalized populations we don't really do the fundamental social change that we could do exactly unfortunately there is every chance that after all this is over we'll end up treating the coronavirus like a really bad fart at thanksgiving that is waiting patiently for it to dissipate so we can never speak of it again and collectively pretend that it didn't just kill grandma so given all of that tonight let's talk about the next pandemic specifically where new infectious diseases come from why they're on the rise and what we can do to limit them and let's start with how we got into our current situation the kovic 19 pandemic is caused by a novel coronavirus called sars cov2 which originated in animals before jumping to humans and that is by no means unusual it's estimated that up to 75 of new or emerging infectious diseases come from animals they're called zoonotic diseases or zoonosis not to be confused with zunos which for the record is a very hurtful thing to call a teenager who's already got enough to deal with and covid is by no means the only zoonotic disease out there there are an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses in mammals and birds of which between six and eight hundred thousand could have the ability to infect humans and lots of animal species are hosts for zoonotic disease birds and pigs can harbor influenza chimpanzees with a bridge of hiv to humans and turtles can carry salmonella which is something that we all remember from one of the darkest episodes of the ninja turtles cartoon that's right one of their turtle powers seem to be inadvertently killing april o'neil now one of the biggest vectors for transmitting viruses is famously bats they've been linked to ebola the deadly nipa virus and kovid19 in fact here is that eerily pressing expert that you saw earlier warning of the dangers of a popular bat based tourist attraction back in 2016.

The bats here in this cave are the same bats that carry sars virus when they're up there they urinate and defecate right on top of the tourists that are walking through and all you've got to do is be that one person to breathe in at the wrong time and suddenly you've been infected with a with a virus that is not only potentially lethal to people it could cause a future pandemic that's horrible and not just the disease parts just the very concept of this walk-in bat toilet being a tourist destination that might be the worst tourist attraction since disneyland put johnny depp animatronics in the pirates of the caribbean right come on disney there's kids here they're here to watch some jolly nautical rapists and thieves not a weird sad millionaire doing a b plus keith richards now there are reasons that bats are such good hosts for disease they can fly so they can cover large distances they've developed specialized immune systems that don't overreact to infections which keeps them from falling ill and they are insanely plentiful nearly a quarter of the world's mammal species are bats and if you're thinking well that's great then there's an easy fix here let's simply kill all bats that's actually not a great idea for multiple reasons not only are they crucial elements of our ecosystem they're also way cuter than they're often given credit for just look at this fuzzy little goober eating a banana look at this one scarfing down a watermelon and just look at this little guy trying to absolutely house a single grape look at him go who's struggling with a grape you are you're struggling with a grape you little goth mouse also it is important to remember that the fact that we may have caught covered from bats isn't so much their fault as it is ours because outbreaks of bad viruses don't tend to come from them seeking us out they usually happen when a human takes a bat somewhere it'd never go on its own or intrudes on its home and that actually brings us to the first big thing we're doing that may well bring about the next pandemic and that is erasing the buffer between civilization and wildlife scientists have repeatedly warned us about the dangers of deforestation urbanization mining and generally supplanting natural habitats which has been far more extensive than you might think many people imagine there's this untouched wilderness because they see it on their tv screens but the reality is there's really not a lot of wild left out there we've already lost nearly 90 of the wetlands around the world we've transformed the forests our grasslands we've converted 75 of the land that is not covered by ice three quarters of the terrestrial surface has been changed a lot of it's just to feed one species it's true we've changed three quarters of the earth's land areas and while some of that was necessary we have also changed a lot to build dumb pointless that no one really wants or needs like paintball courses or novelty t-shirt shops or salt lake city and that vanishing boundary has brought increased risk over 30 percent of new and emerging diseases are linked to deforestation and land use change take the amazon studies have documented that clearing patches of forest appears to create the ideal habitat along forest edges for the type of mosquito that's the most common transmitter of malaria there or take west africa the first victim of 2014's ebola outbreak was a young boy who'd been seen playing near a tree infested with bats before he got sick he lived in a small village where much of the surrounding forest had been destroyed by foreign mining and timber operations and evidence suggests that that is what brought the bats into his village and before you think this is just an overseas problem it is worth remembering that one of the clearest examples of habitat destruction fueling and emerging disease happened right here in the united states where lyme disease was first identified in connecticut in the 1980s and was driven by suburbanization what we found is that the probability that a tick is going to acquire an infection when it feeds on a white-footed mouse is about 90 percent as we fragment the landscape we chop up continuous force into little bits we lose species they disappear one of the last creatures is the white-footed mouse so as we reduce diversity we're losing the species that protect us and favoring the ones that make us sick right we fragmented the landscape and that drove out predators leaving creatures like white-footed mice who are the main culprits when it comes to lyme disease transmission and you know what that means white-footed mice they can go themselves unlike of course rats who can and should go each other but it's not just us moving closer to animals it's that more and more we are bringing wild animals into contact with us through the wildlife trade now sometimes that takes the form of exotic pets whether it's when paris hilton got a kinkajou named baby love or this random british man's extremely ill-advised roommate an ordinary street in kent and a suburban semi with a normal conservatory but it's licensed for something far from normal is a crocodile a suitable pet to have in a suburban house like this he's certainly mellow he's not the same animal he would be because he's he's adjusted shall we say to human life having something that no one else has got is is an interesting thing i mean sure i guess that's true but even if you insist on owning a wild animal which you really shouldn't why a crocodile they're not remotely cuddly you're basically flooding your broom closet to make room for a carnivorous surfboard the only acceptable human use for any crocodile or alligator is as the star of the internet's single greatest music [Music] video [Music] that is excellent that song is catchier than sars in a good way the point here is exotic pet ownership has caused real problems in 2003 47 people across six states caught monkey pox which had never infected humans outside of africa after having contact with infected prairie dogs purchased as pets and in 2006 paris hilton had to go to the hospital after her kinkajou bit her and it's hard to say which was worse there a u.s monkey pox outbreak or baby loves shocking betrayal at two kinkajou but perhaps the most famous way wild animals can spread disease to humans is when they're sold for consumption and the phrase you're probably already thinking of right now is wet markets like the one in wuhan which may well have been the breakout site of covid19 and you should know here the term wet market is used incredibly broadly and often incorrectly many wet markets are essentially just places where fresh meat seafood and produce are sold not unlike a farmer's market and they can be key sources of fresh affordable food around the world especially in developing areas where there isn't you know a trader joe's three blocks away however some of those markets do sell wildlife like bats and snakes and conditions in some of those wildlife markets can be ideal for disease transmission so here in cages right next to each other we've got uh adult raccoons next to capybara which is from south america north america cages right next to each other this is the biggest rodent in the world and on top of here i think uh these marmosets on top of the pepe barra what we just saw here is it's like a biological warfare lab any one animal can transmit a pathogen to another somebody buys it handles it takes it home as a pet or eats it boom we have another pandemic right when wild animals from different parts of the world are held in close proximity with weakened immune systems due to stress pathogens can easily jump from one species to another and potentially to humans which should at the very least make you seriously rethink your island in animal crossing you honestly still think it's a good idea to live in close proximity with a raccoon not to available shut that down and listen i know it doesn't sound great whenever someone particularly with this accent starts tut-tutting about how people in other countries feed themselves and make a living and for what it's worth before we go tell everyone else what to do we might want to acknowledge that our track record on mixing animals isn't great either one expert that we spoke to said a major concern of theirs is state fairs which does kind of make sense state and agricultural affairs have been linked to multiple disease outbreaks with one in 2012 that affected over 300 people mostly children across 10 states that probably explains why fairgoers have been repeatedly warned no kissing pigs and look it's easy to think come on i'd never kiss a pig but are you really sure about that what about this one now you're not so sure are you what about this one right here now you're even more confused how about this pig exactly i thought so well i've got great news this hot little pork chop's been watching you across the bar all night it's down for some stuff and america is actually ground zero for another dangerous practice here factory farming it's something that started here but has since skyrocketed around the world to the point that factory farms now supply more than 90 percent of meat globally and 99 of meats domestically in factory farms livestock are bred and confined in ways that can enable viruses to spread among them much more easily if you have several thousand hogs packed in together and they're all genetically largely the same then it selects for the most virulent pathogens that are possible and so in the course of industrializing livestock production we are also industrializing the pathogens that circulate among them exactly i know it's hard to believe but the cold mechanized factories that cram animals together before stamping their flesh into plastic meat molds and injecting the outcome into supermarket freezer sections across the nation might be doing something bad and when you put all of this together it does begin to seem like we're actively trying to start pandemics which brings us to the obvious question how do we stop doing that well the most effective way would be to close down all wildlife markets ban factory farming stop eating meat altogether halt deforestation shut down all state fairs and definitely take away paris hilton's kinkajou but obviously none of those are going to happen for one thing we know that kinkajou bites but also draconian measures are just not going to work here for instance if you abolish wildlife markets that could cause food scarcity and would likely just lead to an explosion in black market trade of wild animals the reason we know that is that's reportedly exactly what happened when china attempted just such a ban in 2003 in response to sars which is not to say that we shouldn't try to reduce harmful practices because we clearly should many experts argue what's called a one health perspective where we recognize that the health of humans animals and our environment are all interconnected and take that into account when making decisions on everything from environmental regulations to urban planning and there are going to need to be lots of smaller solutions here too which will look different everywhere because crucially everywhere is different take thailand they have had some real success in preventing outbreaks there by providing farmers with a phone app to flag any problems that they see it's similar to my instagram without any filters that help the volunteers in the village to submit abnormal health even in real time you couldn't train everyone to be a health expert but you can train everyone to be eye and ears that's very clever because with that app farmers there now have a way to spot a possibly sick bird that could inform broader public policy which isn't just effective disease prevention it was also interestingly the working title of this show now that scheme has been a success partly because it preserves people's livelihoods and aligns farmers interests with those of their larger community and there will be thousands of small ideas like that that could end up making a real difference and look there is no denying all of this is going to cost money and unfortunately some scientists doubt our appetite for long-term spending on this just listen to this researcher in brazil make that exact point while taking samples from bats it's extremely difficult to get funding for our kind of research now during the pandemic it has been a little easier but as soon as the virus crisis is over our financial worries will return i'm not very optimistic yeah that's not great is it because i'm not very optimistic isn't really what you want to hear from someone scraping germs out of a bat that's a woman who literally knows her so we need to spend however much is necessary to change her answer there and i'm not saying that this will be cheap one estimate for the cost of global prevention runs between 22 and 31 billion dollars a year but bear in mind even if it was double that the cost of kovid 19 in the u.s alone is estimated to be over 16 trillion so to put it mildly it's worth it and i know right now that might seem obvious the problem is as we come out the other side of this pandemic there is a real danger that we're going to start to get complacent so for the good of future generations and in all likelihood us in a few years time we really need to remember the way we feel right now and invest accordingly because the truth is you never know where the next pandemic is going to come from hey y'all remember me oh yuck and i'm gonna do what the coronavirus couldn't i'm gonna kill tom hanks well please don't do that virus serena wilson too they're gonna call me oliver's plague i really don't want you to be called that oh i think it's got a ring to it i absolutely don't the point is we have got to remember this feeling it's our only hope that's our show thank you so much for watching we'll see you next week good night john when i first break out do you think a bunch of celebrities will make a video of themselves singing imagine i mean probably to be honest i've got a surprise for you what is your surprise i can spread through zoom how can you spread through zoos oh it's full of miracles now if you'll excuse me i'm going to disney world and i'm going to give everyone bloody diarrhea i hate you

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