people who study disease outbreaks, there's always a fear that a new infection
or outbreak that nobody knows about will catch us unaware.
literally thousands of unknown viruses circulating around the globe, and dozens
of incurable diseases for the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) to worry about.
As if this weren't enough, we have labs around the world that experiment on
biological agents to make them more deadly – all it takes is for one of these
pathogens to find a human host and we have a real situation in our hands.
Health Organisation recently put out a blueprint highlighting their research on
priority diseases, and as you might expect there were a lot of known threats
like Ebola; but they also added what they see as a new global threat: Disease
What is disease X?
It is the
other diseases on the list are known conditions like the haemorrhagic fever
Ebola, or other recent cases like SARS or Zika, but the WHO has reason to be
viruses often mutate and become deadlier and more infectious, and there's
always a risk that new diseases could jump from their host to humans.
If a new
pathogen appears and causes a pandemic, it’s likely that we won't know how to
react to it. Like we've seen with
other pathogens such as the Zika virus, we're not prepared to handle a global
pandemic, and if such a disease struck today the effects would be catastrophic.
What can we expect from disease X?
the WHO, disease X could turn out to be a mutation of a disease we don't yet
consider serious. It's not unusual for a non-threatening disease to mutate.
As we saw
with coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, even the most innocuous virus can evolve
into a serious pandemic that kills thousands. Just like the Zika virus, these
were considered relatively safe until they mutated and killed people.
A Mutated Flu
and other experts warn of a looming global pandemic that could possibly come
from a mutated version of a known pathogen.
One of the
most genuine threats we face is that of a mutated flu, and as we count a
hundred years since the 1918 influenza pandemic, some people believe the next
pandemic is overdue.
George Poste, a member of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel that focuses on Biodefense,
and a fellow of the Harvard Medical School, a pandemic is inevitable in our
farm system might turn out to be the perfect breeding ground for renegade
bacteria and viruses. We have so many birds and pigs being reared in the same
space, and its possible that a bird flu can acquire genes that allow it to
infect mammals like pigs - and humans.
that come out of that could one day infect humans on a pandemic scale. To keep these kinds of threats manageable,
we probably need a number of disease-monitoring organizations that focus on
emerging threats and bioterrorism.
new outbreak is going to happen at some point; it’s how we respond to it that
matters. For now, disease X is still a talking point, but the World Health
Organisation is warning us to stay alert and informed, just in case a pandemic