Disease X - as it has been called by the World Health Organization - might have the potential to cause 20x deaths than coronavirus
With COVID-19 becoming a 'routine disease', health experts in the UK have started preparing for another pandemic - by the name of Disease X. They warn that this virus can have an impact like the Spanish Flu (1918–1920).
Experts have also raised a flag saying Disease X - as it has been called by the World Health Organization - might have the potential to cause 20x deaths than coronavirus. COVID pandemic started in 2020. It has killed more than 2.5 million people worldwide.
What do we know about Disease X | 10 points
- Talking to the Daily Mail, Kate Bingham, who chaired the UK's Vaccine Taskforce between May and December 2020, said that Disease X will likely be far more dangerous than COVID.
- Going by the expert's approximation, Disease X will have the capacity to cause as many as 50 million deaths. "Let me put it this way: the 1918–19 flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide, twice as many as were killed in World War I. Today, we could expect a similar death toll from one of the many viruses that already exist," she told the Daily Mail.
- To combat Disease X, Bingham says, the world will have to prepare for mass vaccination drives and deliver the doses in record time.
- She revealed that scientists are currently aware of 25 virus families comprising of thousands of individual viruses. However, she believes that millions are undiscovered and have the capability of evolving into a pandemic.
"In a sense, we got lucky with Covid-19, despite the fact that it caused 20 million or more deaths across the world. The point is that the vast majority of people infected with the virus managed to recover. Imagine Disease X is as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola [67%]. Somewhere in the world, it’s replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick."
- Why is there an increase in outbreaks? Bingham says it is increasing because of more people 'cramming into cities'. She adds that millions of acres of natural habitat are being destroyed every year.
"This reason is particularly important, because around three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases originate in animals and then leap from species to species until they can, in certain circumstances, infect human beings."
- What can we do now? Bingham says that one of the first steps is to put 'the money on the table'.
" The monetary cost of inaction is seismic. After all, even Covid-19 - a milder virus than Disease X - managed to leave us holding a bill for $16 trillion in both lost output and public health expenditure."
- Status on vaccines? There are no registered vaccines for Disease X. However, Bingham says that scientists need to discover a collection of "different prototype vaccines for every threatening virus family".
- She adds that only a 'head start' on vaccines could help to target specific features of Disease X.
- Bingham stresses on the portfolio strategy - vaccines countering different facets of the virus. She explains by saying that 'different types of vaccines stimulate different immune responses and therefore they provide different levels of protection'.
"Second, manufacturing capabilities vary enormously across countries and regions. Some vaccine formats may be suitable for large-scale production, while others may be easier to produce in the third world. Third, we need to address the shortcomings of current vaccines, not all of which are durable, easy to transport or cheap. Fourth, researchers must be encouraged to trial new technologies and approaches to vaccine design, potentially leading to more effective and efficient vaccines in the future."
- When is Disease X going to hit us? We have no solid predictions yet. But experts say that the world needs to start preparing as soon as possible.