Disease X: Scientists warn next pandemic could be triggered by virus of ‘deadly infectious illness' - Hindustan Times
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Disease X: Scientists warn next pandemic could be triggered by virus of ‘deadly infectious illness'

ByAditi Srivastava
Apr 21, 2024 11:24 AM IST

Experts warn of Disease X as a potential cause of the next pandemic, with influenza identified as a major threat.

Sounding the alarm for a potential future crisis, scientists warn that the next pandemic might be caused by Disease X. Influenza, a familiar foe associated with seasonal illness, has emerged as a possible threat for this unpredictable and potentially devastating role. An international survey, to be published next weekend, will reveal that 57% of senior disease experts now believe a strain of influenza virus is the most likely cause of the next global outbreak of “deadly infectious illness.”

Alappuzha: Ducks being killed en masse by the Animal Husbandry Department, following detection of avian influenza (bird�flu�H5N8) among�ducks�at four places, in Alappuzha district of Kerala, Friday, April 19,�2024. PTI Photo) (PTI04_19_2024_000485B)(PTI)
Alappuzha: Ducks being killed en masse by the Animal Husbandry Department, following detection of avian influenza (bird�flu�H5N8) among�ducks�at four places, in Alappuzha district of Kerala, Friday, April 19,�2024. PTI Photo) (PTI04_19_2024_000485B)(PTI)

Influenza can trigger the next pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that seasonal flu isn't just a winter nuisance. Every year, flu affects an estimated 1 billion people worldwide, with millions more suffering from severe complications. Even worse, it claims hundreds of thousands of lives annually. The WHO emphasises the dangers of new flu strains, for which people have no immunity, urging us to take influenza seriously.

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Cologne University's Jon Salmanton-García's research backs up this concern. His research indicates that influenza is the biggest threat to the upcoming worldwide pandemic because of its continual evolution and mutation properties. “Each winter influenza appears, you could describe these outbreaks as little pandemics. They are more or less controlled because the different strains that cause them are not virulent enough – but that will not necessarily be the case forever.” He said as cited by the Guardian.

Scientists warn of Disease X

The survey results will be announced at the ESCMID congress next weekend. The unidentified “DiseaseX” virus is seen as the next most likely pandemic-causing virus, after influenza, according to experts. Experts believe a new strain of this virus could emerge ‘out of the blue’ just like Covid-19, which claimed the lives of millions across the globe and still remains a threat.

Also read: ‘100 times worse than Covid pandemic’: Experts on risk of H5N1 bird flu outbreak

These concerning details come on the heels of the World Health Organization raising concerns about the alarming spread of the H5N1 strain of influenza spreading rapidly in parts of the US. The organisation has warned of an “unprecedented surge” in the number of cases.

“This appears to be 100 times worse than Covid, or it could be if it mutates and maintains its high case fatality rate. Once it’s mutated to infect humans, we can only hope that the [fatality rate] drops.” John Fulton a pharmaceutical company consultant, said in a statement earlier.

According to WHO records, the data highlights that since 2003, 52 out of every 100 patients infected with the H5N1 virus have died, resulting in a fatality rate exceeding 50 percent. This rate is comparatively much higher than the current COVID-19 fatality rate, which stands at 0.1 percent.

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