As the whole world witnessed the horrific days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 20 million deaths, health experts have now indicated that another deadlier virus could kill more than 50 million people.
Speaking to Daily Mail, Kate Bingham, who served as the chair of the UK's Vaccine Taskforce from May to December 2020, said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has already warned about the possibility of Disease X, and added the lethal virus has the potential to kill more than 50 million people across the globe. According to Bingham, the virus could have a similar impact to the devastating Spanish Flu of 1919-1920.
Spanish flu-like death could be possible: Health expert
Notably, the Spanish flu was also a pandemic — a new influenza A virus that spread easily and infected people throughout the world. As per multiple media reports, more than 50 million people were killed in the virus attack but health activists claimed that the death figure was much higher.
"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. Today, there are more viruses busily replicating and mutating than all the other life forms on our planet combined. Not all of them pose a threat to humans, of course - but plenty do," Bingham told Daily Mail.
"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 [67%]. Somewhere in the world, it’s replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick," she added.
What is Disease X?
WHO had used the term Disease X in November last year when it launched a global scientific process to update the list of priority pathogens—agents that can cause outbreaks or pandemics—to guide global investment, research and development (R&D), especially in vaccines, tests and treatments.
WHO had convened over 300 scientists who considered the evidence on over 25 virus families and bacteria, as well as “Disease X.” It is included to indicate an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic. The experts had recommended a list of priority pathogens that need further research and investment.
Ways to prevent Disease X?
According to a UK-based health expert, there are various reasons for the virus taking the shape of the pandemic. As per Bingham, various factors including globalisation, urban overpopulation, and deforestation account for the swift spread of any virus. Further, during the conversation, she said the world needs to quicken the manufacturing of vaccines in order to evade COVID-like situation.
She also asserted that the researchers must be encouraged to trial new technologies and approaches to vaccine design, potentially leading to more effective and efficient vaccines in the future.
"Vaccines aren’t the only answer, of course. We urgently need to invest in state-of-the-art systems for international surveillance of prospective virus threats," she said.