Pandemic Threat
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Next Pandemic Threat, ‘Disease X’, May Claim 50 Million Lives, Warns Health Specialist

While scientists have pinpointed 25 virus families, the number of undiscovered variants could exceed one million, warns a UK health expert.

Kate Bingham, who led the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce from May to December 2020, has raised alarm over the potential of ‘Disease X’, a term coined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), to trigger a pandemic more lethal than Covid-19. Drawing parallels with the catastrophic Spanish Flu of 1919-1920 during her conversation with Daily Mail, Bingham noted that Disease X could arise from various agents, whether viruses, bacteria, or fungi, with no current known countermeasures.

Bingham highlighted, “If we reference history, the flu pandemic from 1918-19 resulted in the death of roughly 50 million individuals worldwide, surpassing World War I casualties. Given our current global scenario, we might witness an equally harrowing number with a virus that’s already in existence.”

Emphasizing preparedness, Bingham asserted that an extensive global vaccination campaign, capable of disbursing doses at unprecedented speeds, will be paramount in combatting Disease X.

On the scientific front, while 25 virus families are recognized, Bingham cautioned that over a million concealed variants may possess the ability to transition between species.

“We might consider ourselves fortunate with COVID-19, despite its appalling death toll exceeding 20 million. The silver lining was that most infected individuals recuperated. Now, picture a scenario where Disease X possesses the contagion capacity of measles combined with Ebola’s fatality rate. This hypothetical pathogen is inevitably multiplying somewhere, and it’s only a matter of time before symptoms manifest,” Bingham added, emphasizing the grave potential risks.

With Ebola having a death rate approximating 67%, and diseases like avian influenza and MERS inflicting significant casualties, Bingham believes underestimating the severity of future pandemics could be perilous.

Elucidating the rise in pandemic occurrences, Bingham identified global interconnectedness, urban population densification, and frequent interpersonal interactions as primary reasons. Additionally, deforestation, modern farming techniques, and wetland destruction are facilitating the cross-species transmission of viruses.

The concept of Disease X was first introduced by WHO on its platform in May.

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