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

Disease X’ could be world’s next epidemic WHO warns

The World Health Organization has added an unknown disease or Disease X to its list of nine diseases that may cause a worldwide epidemic. Contenders are weighed primarily on their potential to rapidly epidemics of huge proportions, even global pandemics, as well as the real-life damage they have proven capable of. It is believed that Disease X has the potential to mutate from existing diseases such as HIV or the Spanish Flu, although it isn't yet a disease in its own right.

In previous years, the listing was made up of viruses that had seen outbreaks in recent years, such as Ebola, Zika, Lassa fever, or Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

"These diseases pose major public health risks and further research and development is needed, including surveillance and diagnostics", WHO said.

"Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious worldwide epidemic could be caused by a pathogen now unknown to cause human disease", World Health Organization said on its website.

The organization also considered adding a number of other diseases to its list of global threats, including arenaviral hemorrhagic fevers, Chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, and highly pathogenic coronaviral diseases.

"It may seem odd to be adding an 'X, ' but the point is make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests", Rottingen told the newspaper.

"There is a need to assess the value, where possible, of developing countermeasures for multiple diseases or for families of pathogens", it said. Chemical weapons had already been used in Syria and both the ISIS and al-Qaeda had in the past claimed to have used chemical in some of its terrorist attacks. "It is probably the greatest risk", said Mr Rottingen.

More importantly, this list of diseases are ones to avoid.

WHO's Research and Development (R&D) Blueprint list tries to distinguish diseases that represent a general health hazard due to their potential for starting a plague and for which there are no, or deficient, countermeasures. 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.

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