World economic leaders gathered Wednesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss Disease X, a hypothetical virus 20 times more deadly than COVID-19. .
Although no such viruses are currently known to exist, researchers, scientists, and experts are working hard to combat them and prepare health systems in the event of a pandemic (which it may be). We would like to actively formulate an action plan to prepare for the future. Experts told CBS News it could happen sooner than we think.
“There are strains of the virus that are very lethal, and they may develop the ability to transmit efficiently from person to person,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
What is disease X?
In 2022, the World Health Organization brought together 300 scientists to study 25 virus families and bacteria and create a list of pathogens that they believe have the potential to cause havoc and need further study. That list also includes Disease X, which was first recognized by the organization in 2018.
The WHO said the virus “represents knowledge that it has the potential to cause a serious international epidemic.” [an unknown] Pathogen. ”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday in Davos that COVID-19 may have been our first “Disease X” and that scientists and experts are actively learning from the experience. Stated.
Where do pathogens like Disease X come from?
Adalja said deadly pathogens like Disease .
“That may be so.“Like the new coronavirus, it can be transmitted to birds, like avian influenza, or it can be transmitted to other types of animals, such as pigs. What's important is the interface between humans and animals. “There is an interaction going on there. These kinds of viruses get a foothold.”
How are experts preparing for Disease X?
If unprepared, a disease of this magnitude could cause even greater damage than that experienced with the coronavirus, which has killed more than 7 million people, according to the WHO.
“If we responded this badly to something like COVID-19, you can imagine how badly we would respond to a 1918-level event,” Adalja said. He was referring to the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million people. According to the Cleveland Clinic,
That's why experts around the world are working on robust and effective plans to prepare for worst-case scenarios. Ghebreyesus said early warning systems and health infrastructure plans, which were overburdened during the coronavirus pandemic and resulted in many deaths, could be useful in future scenarios.
“Whether it's the health system or the private sector, by the way, in research and development, you can prepare for that,” he says.
Adalja said another big lesson from COVID-19 is the importance of transparency.
“I think what we're seeing now is this distrust between infectious disease doctors, public health workers and the public, because what's happened is that politicians “Because they threw themselves into this problem,” he said. “People may not actually be taking the precautions that public health officials are recommending.”
Ghebreyesus said WHO is already working with other world organizations to prepare for the next major pandemic or epidemic. These efforts include a Pandemic Fund to support country resources, an mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub to ensure vaccine equity for low-income countries, and a Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence Hub to improve collaborative surveillance between countries. included.