After WHO chief's warning, 'Disease X' raises concern

A list of priority diseases has been released by the WHO.
Last Updated 26 May 2023, 09:42 IST

A warning on 'Disease X' issued by the WHO (World Health Organisation) has raised fresh concern around the globe. While people were able to resume their usual lives after the Covid-19 pandemic subsided, WHO has now voiced concerns over 'Disease X' saying that the world must get ready for the next pandemic, which might be “even deadlier” than the Covid-19. It could be a new agent - a virus, a bacterium or fungus - without any treatment.

“The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains, and the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains,” said the head of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who presented his reports at the 76th Health Assembly.

A list of priority diseases has been released by the WHO:

  • Covid-19
  • Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
  • Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease
  • Lassa Fever
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus(MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
  • Nipah and Henipaviral Disease
  • Rift Valley Fever
  • Zika
  • 'Disease X'

According to a report by WHO, “Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease. The R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable early cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown Disease X.”

Covid-19 may no longer be a global public health emergency, but countries must still strengthen their response to the disease and prepare for future pandemics and other threats, so that when the next pandemic arises, a decisive and collective response is in place, he said.

Ghebreyesus also reminded the world that in the face of overlapping crises, "pandemics are far from the only threat we face".

Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have a 2030 deadline, the Covid-19 pandemic had significant implications for health-related targets, and also impacted the progress made toward the Triple Billion target, announced at the 2017 World Health Assembly.

"The pandemic has blown us off the course, but it has shown us why the SDGs must remain our north star, and why we must pursue them with the same urgency and determination with which we countered the pandemic," the WHO chief said.

(With IANS inputs)

(Published 26 May 2023, 09:35 IST)

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