In 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) brought together 300 scientists to study 25 virus families and bacteria to create a list of pathogens with the potential to cause significant harm and should be studied further. Disease X, recognized in 2018, is included on that list and is defined by the WHO as a serious international epidemic could be caused by an unknown pathogen. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has indicated that COVID-19 may have been the first “Disease X,” and experts are actively learning from that experience.
From where could a pathogen like Disease X originate?
A deadly pathogen like Disease X, potentially a respiratory virus, could already be circulating in animal species and simply not able to be transmitted to humans yet. It could originate from animal species such as bats, birds, or swine, particularly at the interface between humans and animals where interactions occur.
How are experts preparing for Disease X?
Experts acknowledge that if unprepared, a disease of that scale could potentially cause more damage than experienced with COVID-19, which has resulted in a substantial number of fatalities. This drives the need for a robust and effective plan to prepare for the worst-case scenario, including an early-warning system and a plan for health infrastructure. Transparency is also crucial, as public distrust and political interference have affected public reception of recommended protective actions. The WHO, in collaboration with other global organizations, has initiated efforts including the pandemic fund, mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub, and the hub for pandemic and epidemic intelligence to improve collaborative surveillance between countries, ensuring preparedness for future pandemics.
In conclusion, the global summit on Disease X is a crucial platform for world leaders to address the potential for a pandemic caused by a hypothetical virus, emphasizing the need for proactive planning and learning from the experiences of previous health crises. The recognition of Disease X as a serious international epidemic threat highlights the importance of global collaboration and preparedness in confronting such potential health emergencies.
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