The potential consequences of not carefully monitoring the next pandemic are alarming – it could claim up to 50 million lives, reminiscent of the catastrophic Spanish flu outbreak of 1918–1919 that infected nearly one-third of the global population. Despite enduring three years of COVID-19 waves, the virus has become a familiar concern for health professionals. However, they are now preparing for a new potential outbreak known as ‘DISEASE X’, which experts warn to be even deadlier than COVID-19, responsible for the loss of approximately seven million lives worldwide.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has discovered and predicted the next pandemic, Disease X, that it may be in ‘on the way’.
According to Dame Kate Bingham, who chaired the UK’s vaccine taskforce from May to December 2020, she said to the Daily Mail,
“Disease X has the potential to kill 20 times as many people (approximately 50 million people) as COVID-19… the world will have to prepare for mass vaccination drives and deliver the doses in record time. It’s replicating somewhere in the world, and sooner or later, someone will get sick”.
She also mentioned the importance of scientists developing a collection of “prototype vaccines for every threatening virus family”. Currently, there is no approved vaccine for disease X.
What do we know
Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the virus as a zoonotic pathogen, as it is believed that animals may carry and transmit the virus. It is worth noting that several significant diseases, such as smallpox, measles, Ebola, and HIV, originated in animals before mutating and becoming communicable among humans. Recognizing the importance of these facts, the WHO is now considering the implementation of a research and development blueprint aimed at addressing diseases and pathogens within the realm of public health emergencies.
Professor Dame Jenny Haris, head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), highlights critical factors such as climate change and uncontrolled population shifts that are exacerbating the likelihood of future pandemics.
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