Health expert warns pandemic caused by Disease X could kill 50 mn peopletext_fields
A prominent UK health expert has issued a dire warning about a looming threat known as "Disease X." Kate Bingham, the former chair of the UK's Vaccine Taskforce, has cautioned that Disease X, a term coined by the World Health Organization (WHO), could potentially unleash a pandemic with consequences as devastating as the Spanish Flu of 1919-1920.
Disease X is an enigmatic menace, characterized as a novel agent, be it a virus, bacterium, or fungus, for which there are no known treatments. Ms. Bingham expressed her deep concerns, emphasizing the catastrophic potential of this unidentified threat.
"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," warned Ms Bingham.
To combat the impending peril of Disease X, she urged the world to prepare for mass vaccination campaigns of unprecedented scale and speed.
Scientists have already identified 25 virus families, but there is a chilling possibility that over one million undiscovered variants lurk in the shadows, capable of jumping from one species to another, much like the origins of COVID-19.
Ms. Bingham pointed out that while COVID-19, despite its toll of over 20 million deaths worldwide, allowing for recovery in the vast majority of cases, Disease X could be an entirely different beast. She warned that if Disease X were as infectious as measles but had the lethality of Ebola, it could spell global catastrophe.
The Ebola virus, with a fatality rate of approximately 67 per cent, serves as a grim reminder of the potential severity of emerging diseases. Additionally, outbreaks like bird flu and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have claimed numerous lives, making it clear that the world cannot afford to underestimate the threat of future pandemics.
Ms. Bingham shed light on the alarming increase in pandemic outbreaks, attributing it to the interconnectedness of the modern world through globalization and the rapid urbanization that brings people into close proximity, facilitating the transmission of infectious agents.
Moreover, the encroachment on natural habitats through deforestation, modern agricultural practices, and wetland destruction has created conditions conducive to the spillover of viruses from one species to another.