What is Disease X? Could it Trigger Another Global Pandemic?

News Desk6 months ago
What is Disease X? Could it Trigger Another Global Pandemic?

Why the World Leaders Discussing Disease X in Davos?

This week, world leaders convening in Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF) are slated to engage in discussions regarding concerns surrounding a potential future pandemic that could result in fatalities 20 times higher than those caused by Covid-19.

Referred to by the placeholder name of Disease X, this term is employed to signify preparations for a theoretical global epidemic caused by a pathogen not yet identified as a cause of human disease, as outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

During a session titled “Preparing for Disease X,” a panel led by WHO Chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will explore the “novel efforts required to ready healthcare systems for the manifold challenges ahead” in anticipation of a potentially more lethal pandemic, as stated by the WEF.

The WHO designates Disease X as a priority disease in its awareness campaigns, alongside well-known threats such as Covid-19, the Ebola virus, Zika virus, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Introduced to the list in 2018, Disease X serves as a focal point for discussions initiated by the WHO to address the global preparedness for potential pandemics in the future.

What is Disease X?

Disease X isn’t a specific illness; it’s a term for a potential new infectious germ. It’s an unknown sickness that could seriously harm people in the future. We need to be ready because there are many viruses in animals that could turn into a new sickness for humans, and we may not be immune to it.

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) put Disease X on a list of important things to study, along with dangerous diseases like SARS and Ebola.

Calling it “Disease X” helps us get ready for a sickness that we don’t have vaccines or medicines for yet, and that could cause a big outbreak.

Also Read: Fear: A Bridge Between Curse and Blessing

How Much Dangerous Is Disease X?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a cautionary statement indicating that Disease X has the potential to cause fatalities at a rate 20 times higher than COVID-19.

With a global death toll of approximately seven million people due to COVID-19, healthcare experts in 2023 expressed concerns that any emerging pandemic could be significantly more lethal, with an estimated 50 million people at risk of losing their lives worldwide.

What are the Symptoms of Disease X?

Symptoms show up suddenly and may include fever, muscle cramps, fainting, neck and back pain, headaches, swollen eyes, and sensitivity to light. You might also feel nauseous, throw up, have tummy troubles, diarrhea, and a sore throat.

Mood swings and confusion can happen too. Over a few days, feeling agitated can turn into sleepiness, anxiety, and wanting to be alone. Abdominal pain is usually on the upper right side, and the liver may get bigger, says the WHO.

Other signs include a fast heartbeat, swollen lymph nodes, and tiny blisters on the skin and inside the mouth and throat. In some cases, there might be hepatitis. Around the fourth or fifth day of being sick, organs can fail. Sadly, most people don’t make it past the second week of illness. But if you’re a survivor, you usually start getting better after the ninth or tenth day.

Is It Going To Be A Potential Pandemic Again?

Numerous diseases, ranging from well-known to lesser-known, have the potential to pose a global threat. In the past, various strains of influenza have triggered worldwide pandemics, with the “Spanish flu” in 1918 being one of the deadliest outbreaks in history.

Currently, a highly virulent strain of bird flu is spreading globally, occasionally transmitting from birds to mammals and resulting in extensive fatalities. This week, it was identified as the cause of the deaths of 17,000 baby elephant seals in Argentina last October.

Additionally, diseases like Ebola, characterized by severe bleeding, and Zika, transmitted by mosquitoes and linked to the birth of infants with smaller heads when contracted during pregnancy, remain as significant concerns. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently updated its list of pathogens with the highest pandemic potential in 2022.

How Can We Stop Disease X?

Some positive developments have emerged amid the challenging backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic: it might have simplified the efforts to prevent potential future outbreaks of Disease X. The pandemic has accelerated the innovation of novel vaccine designs, some of which can be swiftly adapted to combat new pathogens.

Notably, the emergence of vaccines utilizing mRNA technology has been a breakthrough. These vaccines employ a concise genetic material fragment to prompt the body’s immune cells to generate the “spike” protein of the coronavirus. Importantly, this technology can be easily updated by modifying the mRNA sequence, allowing the production of a different protein as needed.

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