Bracing for Disease X: A New Global Health Challenge
Preparing for the Unseen: Understanding Disease X
The world is still grappling with the devastating effects of COVID-19, and now international health experts are warning of a potential new pandemic, presently known as Disease X. This placeholder name was adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018 to represent a pathogen that could cause a future pandemic, but which is currently unknown to cause human disease. The WHO has classified Disease X among priority pathogens that demand urgent research and investment, alongside diseases such as Covid-19, Ebola, and Zika.
WHO’s Call for Readiness and Decisive Action
During the World Health Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland, in May, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, underscored the threat of a new variant causing surges of disease and death. He emphasized the necessity for readiness and decisive action when the next pandemic strikes, highlighting the importance of updating the International Health Regulations.
A Warning from the Former Head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce
Dame Kate Bingham, the previous head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, has recently issued a warning that the next significant pandemic is imminent and could be far more severe than previous ones. She underscored the necessity for vaccines to be developed and dispatched swiftly, while also noting that there’s no guarantee of this happening. She further called for investment in international surveillance systems for potential virus threats.
Characteristics of Disease X
A 2021 study titled “Disease X: A hidden but inevitable creeping danger” suggests that diseases like SARS-CoV-2 and Zika could be considered the first Disease X. However, the study also proposes that these and other recent pandemics may have been milder versions of what is expected to be the most imminent Disease X. The study elucidated that Disease X is expected to be a zoonosis, most likely an RNA virus, originating from an area with a high risk of sustained transmission. It also recommended monitoring the threat of emerging zoonotic pathogens, as well as the possibility of an engineered pandemic pathogen.
(Read Also: Fighting the Flu: How Vaccination Can Keep You Safe)
Malaysia’s Readiness for Potential New Pandemics
Health Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Zaliha Mustafa, has assured that the ministry is on alert for any possible new pandemic, including Disease X, and that the WHO will alert member countries of any new disease outbreaks.
Preparing for Disease X: A Global Health Challenge
Disease X represents a global health challenge, and the world needs to be prepared for it. The call from health experts around the globe is for increased funding to support surveillance and research into potential pandemic agents. The world witnessed the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the importance of preparation and swift action. As we continue to learn more about Disease X, it is essential to remain vigilant, invest in scientific research, and prioritize global health security.
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