Monday, 24 September, 2018

Scientists put on alert for deadly new pathogen - 'Disease X'

Disease X Is On The WHO Priority Diseases List – What Is Disease X DISEASE X warning: Deadly pathogen added to mass killer list with GLOBAL pandemic feared
Ben Pena | 12 March, 2018, 13:59

Despite not being identified as a specific disease, the pathogen has been classed as extremely unsafe.

Each year the Geneva-based organisation, which is charged with monitoring and safeguarding world health, convenes a high-level meeting of senior scientists to list diseases that pose a serious risk of sparking a major worldwide public health emergency.

The health organization is trying to acknowledge that such types of deadly contagious diseases are uncertain and unforeseeable.

Highlighted in the 2018 annual review of the Blueprint list of priority diseases, WHO said it developed a tool to determine which diseases and pathogens pose a public health risk due to their epidemic potential.

For numerous other diseases discussed, including Zika, Rift Valley fever (RVF) and Nipah and henipaviral diseases, the organisation suggested that health experts need to focus on better diagnostics.

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"These diseases posture real general health hazards and further innovative work is required, including reconnaissance and diagnostics", WHO said.

World Health Organization committee scientific adviser John-Arne Rottingen believes the next major outbreak of disease will be something humanity has not seen before. The mysterious nature of the disease is meant to ensure flexible planning of diagnostics tests and vaccine strategies, so that that they may be applied to a wide range of possible scenarios.

Disease X "presents the knowledge" that a serious worldwide epidemic could be caused "by a pathogen now unknown to cause human disease", an excerpt of the review said.

Mr Rottingen said Disease X would most likely be sparked by a "zoonotic disease" jumps from animals to humans and then becomes an epidemic, which happened with H1N1 swine flu in 2009. Ebola is also a zoonosis.

This is not to scare people, WHO adds, but to motivate public health authorities around the world to prepare for all kinds of threats, not just those that are predictable. Primary care systems (local doctors and nurses) are key to safeguarding public health, as they're our best bet for detecting outbreaks of a new disease early on, and containing it before it spreads. Others on the list include Ebola, Zika and Lassa fever. However, it also warned that these pathogens still pose a serious risk to public health, and should be "watched carefully".

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