What is Disease X; can this potential threat be deadlier than Covid pandemic? | Health - Hindustan Times
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What is Disease X; can this potential threat be deadlier than Covid? Doctor explains

Sep 30, 2023 10:22 AM IST

While Covid-19 pandemic is almost over, healthcare professionals are now preparing for a potential new pandemic called Disease X.

The next pandemic could take 50 million lives said Dame Kate Bingham, who chaired the UK's Vaccine Taskforce saying that it might already be on its way and that Covid-19 was not that lethal. The new pandemic has been dubbed Disease X by World Health Organisation (WHO) and Bingham says it could be 20 times deadlier than Coronavirus. Bingham told Daily Mail, “The world will have to prepare for mass vaccination drives and deliver the doses in record time…Imagine Disease X is as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola (67 per cent). Somewhere in the world, it's replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick.” (Also read: 'Disease X' likely to be 20 times deadlier than Covid-19, says expert. What is it?)

According to Bingham, while scientists have identified 25 virus families encompassing thousands of individual viruses, there are millions of other viruses yet to be discovered, reported the Daily Mail. (Shutterstock)
According to Bingham, while scientists have identified 25 virus families encompassing thousands of individual viruses, there are millions of other viruses yet to be discovered, reported the Daily Mail. (Shutterstock)

According to Bingham, while scientists have identified 25 virus families encompassing thousands of individual viruses, there are millions of other viruses yet to be discovered, reported the Daily Mail.

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"While Covid-19 and its variants have impact in terms of recurring and familiar health issues, healthcare professionals are now preparing for a potential new pandemic called Disease X. Healthcare experts have issued a caution that this new virus can be as devastating as the Spanish Flu. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Disease X refers to pathogen - known/potentially unknown that can cause large scale, serious pandemic leading to mass scale human disease," says Dr Neha Rastogi, Consultant, infectious disease, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

What is Disease X?

"Disease X is possibly and plausibly caused by a 'pathogen X'. It could be related to zoonotic disease likely an RNA virus, emerging from an area where the epidemiological triad - environment host favours sustained transmission. These emerging/re-emerging z pathogens can be labelled as X and they are a threat which mandates intense and ongoing active surveillance and monitoring," says Dr Rastogi.

There are postulated data about the possibility of syndrome X as an engineered pandemic pathogen. Incidental laboratory accidents or as an act of bioterrorism, might lead to a disastrous Disease X which can be potentially pose global catastrophic risk, says the expert.

Prevention

"Containment and mitigation strategies involve development and implementation of uniform international guidelines to control bioterrorism. Immediate and appropriate travel restrictions including strict airport screening requires to be implemented to contain the spread of pathogen X across borders. It also necessitates collaborative approach of global leaders, scientists, epidemiologists, and infectious disease experts to investigate, control, and eliminate disease X. Widespread and mass testing, surveillance and aggressive contact tracing are potential effective tools to timely contain outbreak like situations," says Dr Rastogi.

"Concentrated efforts to accelerate the access, rapid availability of immediate medical measures - test kits, vaccines, and first aid required before and during the pandemic. Ongoing continuum of research on preventive aspect - development and process of vaccines needs boost and heightened priorities to abate and combat severe adverse consequences of disease X," she says.

"A One Health approach which aims at bridging institutional gaps, building and stratifying priority risk and alert pathogens and emphasizing on mitigation strategies for emerging and re-emerging pathogens - potential disease X should be the need of an hour to prevent these global and global catastrophes," concludes the expert.

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