20 times more menacing: ‘Disease X’ unleashes pandemic fears


WHO warns ‘Disease X’ pandemic can surpass devastation caused by ongoing global crisis, which claimed over 7 million lives worldwide

This photograph taken on December 7, 2021, shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) at its headquarters in Geneva. — AFP 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded the alarm, raising concerns about a potential global pandemic known as ‘Disease X’ that could be 20 times more menacing than the current COVID-19 crisis.

During a recent session at the World Economic Forum, global health leaders and scientists gathered to discuss the hypothetical but potentially catastrophic threat posed by ‘Disease X.’ 

The term, coined by the WHO in 2018, is not an existing pathogen but serves as a strategic element in preparing for the unpredictability of future health crises.

The panel, titled “Preparing for Disease X,” emphasised the urgent need for better communication strategies to counter misinformation and conspiracy theories. Despite the hypothetical nature of ‘Disease X,’ some individuals took to social media platforms, including Twitter, to express skepticism, labeling the session as a potential conspiracy against freedom.

Experts highlighted that ‘Disease X’ could likely manifest as a respiratory virus, potentially originating in animals and making the jump to humans. The WHO issued a stern warning that without proper preparedness, a pandemic from ‘Disease X’ could surpass the devastation caused by the ongoing global crisis, which has claimed over 7 million lives worldwide.

Quotes from the WHO session underscored the importance of global collaboration in the face of potential threats. “Preventing ‘Disease X’ requires a united front and effective communication between nations,” emphasised one expert. 

Addressing concerns about misinformation, the WHO stressed the need for public awareness, stating, “Misinformation can be as contagious as a virus. We need to inoculate societies with accurate information to prevent the spread of fear and conspiracy.”

While ‘Disease X’ took the spotlight during the session, experts also acknowledged that it is not the sole concern for epidemiologists. The list of potential pandemic triggers includes known viruses like Ebola, Marburg, and evolving variants of COVID-19, highlighting the critical need for global initiatives and preparedness measures.

The WHO has already taken proactive steps, initiating efforts to support technology sharing and enhance disease surveillance between countries, recognising the imperative of staying ahead of the curve in the face of unpredictable health challenges. 

The global community is now faced with the challenge of preparing for a potential ‘Disease X’ scenario and ensuring that lessons learned from the ongoing pandemic contribute to a more resilient and prepared future.



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