The World Health Organization recently released a list of diseases it considers pose a high risk to the public. It has also added a mysterious “Disease X” to a list of viruses it fears could cause a global pandemic in the future.
The diseases mentioned in the list are feared to affect the public in a potential global pandemic due to their potential to spark an epidemic and the limited treatment available to combat them. Virus such as Ebola, Zika, Lassa fever and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which have all seen outbreaks in recent years are included as serious threats.
The mysteriously ominous sounding Disease X has been actually added to its priority list for the first time this year after a review by health experts in February. Disease X is in fact not a newly-discovered threat in itself, but a hypothetical virus, which could emerge in the future and cause widespread infection across the globe.
According to the statement by WHO, “Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.”
It added healthcare officials were planning for a currently unidentified threat now to ensure: “research and development preparedness that is relevant for an unknown Disease X as far as possible.”
“History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before”, John-Arne Rottingen, chief executive of the Research Council of Norway and a scientific adviser to the WHO committee said.
“It may seem strange to be adding an ‘X’ but the point is to make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests.
“We want to see ‘plug and play’ platforms developed which will work for any, or a wide number of diseases; systems that will allow us to create countermeasures at speed.”
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