Global health experts are warning about a potential major pandemic, referred to as ‘Disease X’, that could result in millions of deaths. Despite the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic, authorities believe its emergence is likely. The lack of preparedness to handle this threat is concerning. The creation and distribution of vaccines will be crucial in combating ‘Disease X’.
What is ‘Disease X’?
According to WHO, Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease. The R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable early cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown “Disease X”.
According to a UK health expert, there is concern that ‘Disease X’, a term coined by the World Health Organization (WHO), has the potential to trigger a more severe pandemic than Covid-19.
Kate Bingham, who previously chaired the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce from May to December 2020, expressed the possibility that this novel virus could have a comparable impact on the Spanish Flu that occurred between 1919 and 1920. The WHO defines ‘Disease X’ as a new infectious agent, which could be a virus, bacterium, or fungus, for which there are currently no known treatments, reported DailyMail.
Expressing her concern, Bingham said, “Let me put it this way: the 1918-19 flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide, twice as many as were killed in World War I. Today, we could expect a similar death toll from one of the many viruses that already exist.”
“To tackle the threat from Disease X, the world will have to prepare for mass vaccination drives and deliver the doses in record time”, she further added.
The expert also mentioned that although scientists have recognized 25 virus families, there might be over a million undiscovered variations that have the potential to cross over from one species to another.
“In a sense, we got lucky with COVID-19, despite the fact that it caused 20 million or more deaths across the world. The point is that most people infected with the virus managed to recover… Imagine Disease X is as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola. Somewhere in the world, it’s replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick,” said Bingham.
The WHO introduced Disease X on its website in May. This term signifies the awareness that a significant global epidemic could arise from a pathogen that is presently not known to cause human illness. The WHO began using this term in 2018 and one year later, the global spread of Covid-19 commenced.
Is ‘Disease X’ fatal? Can it cause a pandemic?
World Health Organisation (WHO) started using the term Disease X for any unknown disease in 2018. Notably, a year later Covid-19 emerged as a pandemic causing virus.
The term has led to deliberations across the world, with many experts claiming that the next Disease X will be zoonotic, like Ebola and Covid-19.
Others said the pathogen could also be created by humans.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that there is potential of a Disease X event just around the corner,” Pranab Chatterjee, researcher at the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told The National Post.