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.
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. There are many strains of avian flu. The one that is doing the rounds is a particularly dangerous strain called H5N1. Bird flu usually doesn’t affect humans. But evolution can form new subtypes of bird flu that can easily make interspecies jumps and infect humans.
MERS and SARS are triggered by the same influenza virus of which COVID is a subtype. 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 livestock.
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-
- 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.