All about the next pandemic: Disease X. Researcher: Viruses buried for tens of thousands of years enter nightmare scenarios

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has again warned that a new pandemic is lurking and that we should be talking about “When” will appear, no “if” will appear. Romanian doctors explained where the virus will come from that will be 20 times more deadly than SARS-CoV-2 and if we are ready to face it.

When will the next pandemic come – Photo Archive

A new pandemic cannot be ruled out, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the WHO, warned again in a speech at the University of Glasgow. It highlighted the need for globally implemented policies, instead of “each country to act for itself“.

“History teaches us that the next pandemic is a matter of when, not if. It could be caused by a flu virus, or a new coronavirus, or it could be caused by a new pathogen that we don't even know about yet—what we call Disease X. There's been a lot of attention recently on Disease X. We used for the first given the term Disease X in 2018 as a stand-in for an as-yet-unknown disease that we can still prepare for. COVID-19 was a Disease X, a new pathogen that causes a new disease, but there will be another Disease X, or a Disease Y, or a Disease Z. And as things stand now, the world remains unpreparedeh,” said the director of the WHO, according to “Daily Star“.

Virus 20 times more deadly

Recently there is more and more talk about Disease X. This is a generic term used for a deadly virus that could cause a new pandemic.

In January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the world's most powerful people also discussed the hypothetical pandemic caused by Disease X, considered a virus 20 times deadlier than COVID-19. The purpose of the discussions is to create a preventive action plan to combat such a pathogen. Also, such a “simulation” should prepare health systems in the event of a new health challenge.

According to the WHO, Disease X, which was recognized as early as 2018, “is knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by an unknown pathogen”. And experts say the likelihood of a new pandemic coming sooner than expected is quite high.

There are strains of viruses that have very high mortality rates and may develop the ability to be efficiently transmitted from human to human,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, quoted by CBS News.

Triggers for a new pandemic

Among the factors that can trigger a new health crisis is travel, warns epidemiologist Emilian Popovici. And tourism has returned to full capacity after the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, “urbanization and the growth of the world's population at an alarming rate have led to an increase in density in many areas, facilitating the spread of diseases and making it difficult to take effective measures to prevent and combat“, adds the epidemiologist.

Resistance to antibiotic treatments and climate change are also listed among the factors that could lead to a new health crisis.

In fact, a deadly virus could even spread among animal species, but without yet being transmitted to humans, warns Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

It could be bats, as was the case with COVID-19, it could be birds as in bird flu, or it could be another animal species, pigs for example“, he says.

Researcher Octavian Jurma explained to “the truth” why the script “X diseases” is not a science fiction one at all.

First, climate change allows virus-carrying organisms to migrate northward from equatorial areas. We know very well that there are a lot of viruses out there that are much more dangerous than COVID-19. The truth is that response in Africa to epidemic outbreaks it is much better than in the West, where we have become unaccustomed to responding to such challenges. This idea of ​​viruses that can jump from animals to humans, as happened with COVID, is a big threat because they represent viruses that humanity has never encountered and has no form of immune response to, and we've seen how it takes until a new vaccine is developed. We don't even know what else global warming will bring out of the permafrost, maybe viruses buried for tens of thousands of years, entering nightmare scenarios“said the researcher.

Preparations for the worst case scenario

To prevent millions of deaths, WHO says we need coordinated plans worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic might have been a good experiment to prepare for the worst-case scenario, but even after that, humanity is not ready to respond to a new pandemic”, believes Octavian Jurma.

In some ways, the COVID pandemic was an exercise, however, it was one of the mildest pandemics in human history. Even though it is one of the ten worst pandemics in human history, with over 30 million deaths in reality, compared to the 7 million officially accounted for, due to the sheer number of people infected. The WHO is contemplating various scenarios to prepare, and naturally so. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense deal with basic societal security measures: the military protects us from human invaders, and the Ministry of Health from invaders that know no borders, such as viruses or other pathogens. A lot of money must also be invested in the biological protection of the population. The coronavirus pandemic has shown huge vulnerabilities in the global response, each state has done what it wanted. If we do not have coordination at the global level, it is very difficult for any country to stand alone in the face of an epidemic assault, due to economic factors and maintaining the cooperation of the population, which is essential“, added the expert.

Disease X in Romania

In the public speech of officials from the health system in our country, Disease X does not exist, Octavian Jurma believes.

Disease X, for Romania, in particular, should be an even more important topic of discussion than for most countries, because we are currently among the least prepared countries in the world to face a new epidemic challenge, this is the factual truth. We intentionally and deliberately placed ourselves among countries in Africa begging for access to the vaccine when we had too much. We deliberately exited this contract in 2023at this time we no longer have the protection of the European Union (regarding vaccines – no). This discussion about Disease X would also help in Romania. I worry about the denialism itself that has been adopted by the authorities. Discussions should be undertaken by governments proactively, to educate the population preemptively. It's easier for an educated population, and the benefits that come from education are synergistic. Disease X can reset the discussion about how we prepare, about non-pharmaceutical measures, basically the mask filters the air at the individual level“, he says.