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Global Health Experts Sound Alarm For Next Pandemic, Millions Of Lives On Stake

According to a UK health specialist, Disease X, as it has been named by the World Health Organisation (WHO), may result in a pandemic that is even deadlier than Covid-19. The devastation caused by the new virus might be comparable to that of the deadly Spanish Flu of 1919–1920, according to Kate Bingham, who held the position of chair of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce from May 2019 to December 2020, in an interview. WHO claims that Disease X may be a novel agent, such as a virus, bacterium, or fungus, for which there are no known treatments.

Expressing her concern, Ms Bingham said, “Let me put it this way: the 1918-19 flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide, twice as many as were killed in World War I. Today, we could expect a similar death toll from one of the many viruses that already exist.”

If the world has to tackle the threat from Disease X, “the world will have to prepare for mass vaccination drives and deliver the doses in record time”, she told.

The expert went on to say that although scientists have identified 25 virus families, there may be more than one million undiscovered varieties that are capable of moving between different species.

“In a sense, we got lucky with Covid-19, despite the fact that it caused 20 million or more deaths across the world. The point is that the vast majority of people infected with the virus managed to recover… Imagine Disease X is as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola. Somewhere in the world, it’s replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick,” said Ms Bingham.

Ebola had a fatality rate of around 67 per cent, and she added that others like bird flu and MERS also killed a large number of people. “So we certainly can’t bank on the next pandemic being easily contained.”

Ms Bingham also explained why the number of pandemics are increasing.

“The increase in outbreaks is the price we’re having to pay for living in the modern world. First, it’s increasingly connected through globalisation. Second, more and more people are cramming into cities, where they often come into close contact with others,” said Ms Bingham.

And because of deforestation, contemporary farming practises, and the degradation of wetlands, viruses are hopping from one species to another.

On its website, WHO first made reference to Disease X in May.

In 2018, the WHO first used the phrase. A year later, Covid-19 started to spread globally.

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