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Could A Pandemic More Deadly Than COVID Strike Soon?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

The COVID pandemic is not yet dealt with and we have already heard about a prospective new pandemic that is likely to strike any day and could be deadlier. For a long time, way before COVID struck, certain scientists had sounded the warning bells, they had prophesied that a series of killer diseases are lurking all around us and the situation could spiral into a pandemic any minute. But adequate measures were not taken.

Is COVID The First in a Series of Deadly Pandemics? - PharmEasy

However, the worldwide COVID mayhem has awakened the authorities. WHO has announced that it is researching similar diseases that have the potential to cause worldwide disaster. 

Disease X: the future pandemic that awaits us?

WHO has coined the term Disease X to denote any pathogen that can trigger the next pandemic. Scientists have found a dangerous number of viruses and pathogens, all of which can snowball into a pandemic. In fact, Disease X information also incorporates viruses that have not been identified yet. 

WHO wants to be prepared

WHO is coming up with an action plan with elaborate instructions on how to deal with such a scenario in order to prevent a massive death toll. The mistake the world made with COVID must not be repeated. 

What makes WHO think that more pandemics are lined up?

Viruses have a dangerous ability to mutate rapidly and take on new forms. This evolution sometimes happens so fast that medicinal science and our immunities cannot keep up. So a new kind of virus may appear and start infecting people rapidly. Or older viruses such as the ones that caused the Nipah epidemic or the deadly Ebola disease can make a come-back and be the Disease X. Or, it could be a variation of the ever-present Influenza virus which was responsible for the Spanish flu global pandemic.

A few examples of what could be the new Disease X

The frontrunner in the list of possible viruses that can trigger Disease X is bird flu. Bird flu has already shown up in India. Bird flu also called avian influenza, is a viral infection that can infect not only birds but also humans and other animals. Most forms of the virus are restricted to birds. H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or “bird flu”). Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person. But evolution can form new subtypes of bird flu that can easily make interspecies jumps and infect humans. But evolution can form new subtypes of bird flu that can easily make interspecies jumps and infect humans. 

“SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-SARS-CoV) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-MERS-CoV) are subtypes of Coronaviruses (CoVs). It gets triggered by the same influenza virus. And for the same reasons as COVID, these 2 can become the next Disease X. They are both highly contagious and spread easily from one human to multiple persons. 

Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever is another influenza-caused infection. It has a high mortality rate and like bird flu and swine flu can infect humans through contact with ticks and livestock animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, and fur-bearing animals.

Similarly, the Nipah virus and Henipavirus, Rift Valley Fever, Lassa Fever, and Zika, or their mutated versions could be Disease X

The threat of a hybrid disease

Scientists are not discounting the possibility that Disease X could be triggered by a hybrid virus. For example, pigs can be infected by both bird flu and swine fly through interspecies jumps. In the body of a pig, the two viruses can combine and form a new virus that overcomes the weaknesses of the individual viruses and as a hybrid virus becomes more invincible. 

A recombinant coronavirus

Finally, the threat could come from COVID itself. If two diametrically different strains of COVID combine, then we could have new and difficult-to-defeat Disease X.

What are the symptoms of Disease X?

Disease X symptoms would depend on which subtype of the influenza virus is causing the disease. A few common Disease X symptoms might include-

  • Fever
  • Bodyache
  • Nausea 
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat

Only with the passage of time will we know what Disease X will shape up to be. But rest assured that the authorities will spring into action at the slightest indication of a new disease. Follow their instructions and maintain personal hygiene while caring for your immunity. 

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