Scientists studying a particular species of bat called a flying fox found nearly 60 different viruses in the animal, many of which had never been seen before. Using this data, they extrapolated out and figured there are at least 320,000 unknown viruses out there lurking in other animals. But rather than seeing this as a negative, they felt that by doing the basic research now of finding and cataloging the new viruses, we would be much safer in the long run.
Researchers think it could cost about $6 billion to find and catalogue all the unknown viruses, but if they prevented one solid pandemic, the cost could pale in comparison. The reason they feel such study is so important is that 70 percent of the viruses that currently infect humans originated in an animal. The long term goal (they think such a huge study could take 10 years) would be to develop an early warning system that would help prevent a widespread pandemic from occurring.
Considering the trillions of dollars we waste every years on guns, bombs, useless wars and other military nonsense, this sounds like a very prudent and intelligent use of government funds.
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Image courtesy of www.gla.ac.uk.