World set for new disease worse than Ebola and SARS


There is a new member of the World Health Organization's (WHO) infamous list of the leading infectious diseases.

"Disease X" is not exactly new, as this killer pathogen is a so-called "known unknown" that could be created by biological mutations, like what happened with Spanish Flu or HIV, The New York Post reports.

The R&D Blueprint is a global strategy and preparedness plan that allows the rapid activation of R&D activities during epidemics.

However, this year a ninth mystery pathogen has been added to the watch list for the first time. It's a so-called "known unknown" that the World Health Organization says we need to be prepared for, which is why the mystery malady is now on the agency's R&D Blueprint of priority diseases.

The WHO said: 'Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious worldwide epidemic could be caused by a pathogen now unknown'.

In previous years, the listing was made up of viruses that had seen outbreaks in recent years, such as Ebola, Zika, Lassa fever, or Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The diseases that pose a public health risk due to their epidemic potential and insufficient countermeasures are being added to the list.

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"It may seem odd to be adding an "X" but the point is to make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests".

John-Arne Rottingen of the Research Council of Norway tells the Telegraph that "history tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before".

Disease X could spring up from a lot of different sources and infect us via innumerable vectors, Mr. Rottingen says, although zoonotic transmission (an animal virus evolving to infect humans) is the most likely. "It is vital that we are aware and prepare".

"It is probably the greatest risk". This disease could also be hatched by big events like a terrorist act, or smaller incidences like vehicle accidents.

As well as the priority list, WHO listed dengue, yellow fever and HIV/AIDS, as being outside the current scope of the list while still continuing to pose major public health issues.

For numerous other diseases discussed, including Zika, Rift Valley fever (RVF) and Nipah and henipaviral diseases, the organisation suggested that health experts need to focus on better diagnostics.