‘Disease X’: WHO warns future pandemic could be 20 times deadlier than Covid

©Getty The WHO has warned of a potential Disease X since 2017
The WHO has warned of a potential Disease X since 2017. ©Getty
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The annual general meeting in Davos, Switzerland, brought together world leaders to discuss Disease X, a virus that could theoretically be 20 times more deadly than Covid-19.

Although no such virus currently exists, experts have developed proactive action plans to combat such viruses and prepare health systems for a pandemic that may occur sooner than expected.

Dr. Amesh Adalja from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said: “There are strains of viruses that have very high mortality rates that could develop the ability to transmit efficiently from human to human.”

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated in Davos on Wednesday that COVID-19 may have been our first “Disease X,” and that scientists and experts are actively learning from that experience.
Adalja suggested that a deadly pathogen like Disease X, likely a respiratory virus, could already be circulating in animal species but is not yet able to be transmitted to humans.

“That could be bats like COVID-19, it could be in birds like bird flu, or it could be some other type of animal species, swine for example,” he said.

“It’s really about that interface between humans and animals, where interactions are occurring, that these types of viruses get a foothold.”

If we’re not ready, a disease of this magnitude could cause even more harm than COVID-19, which has claimed over 7 million lives, says the WHO.

“If we did so poorly with something like COVID-19, you can imagine how poorly we would do with something like a 1918-level event,” Adalja said, referring to the influenza pandemic of 1918 that killed an estimated 50 million people around the world, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Another big lesson from COVID-19 is the need for openness, Adalja said.

“I think what we see now is this distrust between infectious disease physicians, public health practitioners and the general public, because what happened is politicians injected themselves into this,” he said.

“People may not actually be receptive to the protective actions that are being recommended by public health officials.”

Ghebreyesus stated that the WHO, along with other global organisations, has already set up initiatives to prepare for the next big pandemic or epidemic.

These include a pandemic fund to assist countries with resources, an mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub to ensure vaccine fairness for poorer nations, and a hub for pandemic and epidemic intelligence to enhance cooperative surveillance between countries.

Imperial Hospital Sylhet

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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