By Laura Haefeli

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – UC Davis researchers are once again at the forefront of science with the creation of a digital database called Spillover that tracks diseases transmitted between animals and humans.

Jonna Mazet, professor of epidemiology and disease ecology at UC Davis, said the database is tracking the most dangerous diseases found in the world that evolve among wildlife. She said Spillover is “specifically interested in those highest risk for causing epidemics and pandemics.”

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“COVID is actually number two on the list, not number one,” Mazet said.

According to Mazet, the Lassa virus is in that number one spot.

“Lassa fever is found in rodents, so obviously a lot of opportunity for contact especially in urban areas where that virus is in the rodents,” she said.

Third on the list after COVID-19 is the Ebola virus

“Ebola is a great example of a virus that has spilled over and causes devastation,” Mazet said. “The host looked to be a bat species as well.”

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The point of Spillover is to recognize the diseases as quickly as possible and to get ahead of them.

“We can discover almost all, if not all, of the viruses that are available to spill over into people ahead of them actually causing disease and be ready for them and that’s what this watch list is for,” said Mazet.

Mazet said the research allows policymakers, agencies, and governments all over the world the opportunity to better protect communities through education.

“To understand how they are interacting with animals and what might be palatable for them to reduce their risk, like washing your hands, not to touch dead animals, don’t disturb wildlife, simple things like that,” she said.

Mazet created the Spillover database and said it may mean the difference between freedom and the next global pandemic.

“We can find these viruses ahead of time, we can understand the risk. I don’t think the next pandemic is inevitable if we act,” she said. “This has to be a wake-up call. We don’t want to be sheltering again for more than a year.”

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Anyone has access to the Spillover database. If agencies or governments anywhere in the world discover a potential virus, they can add it to the list of threats to be assessed for risk.