After recent findings of new viruses in humans, leading epidemiologists predict that more such viruses may emerge in the future. At present, around 3-4 entirely new viruses are being discovered every year. This rate is expected to increase in the coming years. Most of these viruses originate from animals. some examples of diseases caused by these viruses include Ebola virus disease, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus disease, Nipah and henipaviral diseases, Zika, Rift Valley fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Covid-19.
What is Disease X?
Disease X is a yet to be found disease that will be caused by a new pathogen X. The term has been coined by the World Health Organization (WHO), as part of its plan to increase preparedness for new diseases. The world has witnessed the devastation caused by Covid-19. WHO wants to avoid a repeat of such things, which is exactly where Disease X comes into the picture. If we prepare for Disease X in advance, we will be in a better position to contain it.
Scientific models indicate that Disease X will likely be caused by a virus. However, other pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, or prions may also cause Disease X. Scientists are worried about Disease X, as it will have a very high mortality rate. It will be something similar to Ebola, which had mortality rate of up to 88% when it was initially discovered. In comparison, the present Covid-19 mortality rate is in the range of 1% to 4% in most countries.
How to control Disease X?
WHO has created a clear roadmap on how to manage things when Disease X strikes humanity. Early warning will be crucial in controlling disease X. That’s why WHO has directed all nations to promptly report any new symptoms and isolate the patient(s). Scientists also need to work on new techniques that can enable rapid development of medicines and vaccines. Health infrastructure needs to be improved, so that more lives could be saved.
What’s causing increase in viruses?
Scientists believe that the increasing number of new viruses is due to rapid deforestation of rain forests. As forests are being cut, thousands of species are coming in contact with humans. And the viruses found in these animals are getting transmitted to humans. The transmission can occur in various ways such as direct contact, animal bites, consuming undercooked contaminated meat, through mosquitoes, fleas or ticks, and via air, water and soil. Another breeding ground for viruses is animal trade markets and slaughter hubs.
If ecological destruction is not stopped, humanity will continue to face threats from new pathogens. Disease X will be just one of the many devastating things that can come our way. It’s imperative that we understand the consequences of our actions and do everything we can to protect our forests. Trade and slaughter of exotic animals also needs to be stopped.