The World Health Organization’s watch list has been updated to include a ninth pathogen that could spell out disaster for the human race. The disease, coined Disease X, joins the likes of SARS and the Ebola virus on the list of diseases that pose a significant risk to international public health which possess little to no countermeasures.
The growing unknown
What makes ‘Disease X’ so different than other pathogens on the list is the fact that it is yet undefined. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases, the ‘X’ stands for unexpected. Experts stress that this looming threat could strike at any time, and that it is absolutely vital that we prepare in order to react swiftly.
While experts are not currently certain how this outbreak could begin, they theorise that it could have one of two origins: organic or synthetic. Other pandemics currently on the list, like Ebola, are organic and have zoonotic origins, i.e. transmitted from animals to humans. However, with advances in science, experts theorise that the disease could very well be created – either in a lab by professionals, or more frighteningly by radicals looking to use the disease as a weapon.
The cost of advancement
Humankind is becoming increasingly more connected as the world develops. As travelling great distances is becoming more and more accessible, the elevated degree of contact raises the risk of infectious diseases spreading. While it’s difficult to prepare for a disease that we’ve not yet seen, experts have stressed the importance of being ready for the inevitable: ‘In the case of Ebola the disease went under the radar for four months’, Professor Marion Koopman, head of the Viroscience department of the Erasmus Medical Centre, claims. ‘It’s really crucial we start to change that and make sure local health care infrastructure is better developed’.
Take a look at the video above to find out more about Disease X...