Afew years ago, the World Health Organisation published a list of pathogens which it said needed urgent scientific attention. All were viruses, none had known treatments or vaccines, and all had the potential to trigger pandemics that could kill thousands – just as Ebola and swine flu did earlier this century.
The viral dangers outlined in WHO’s list included Nipah disease, as well as Lassa and Rift Valley fevers. Crucially, after much discussion, WHO experts later decided to add a new condition to this menu of maladies: Disease X.
Disease X referred to “a serious international epidemic caused by a pathogen currently unknown”, said WHO. Humanity should now be working to seek out and tackle such mystery ailments, it added – though it was assumed they would remain remote threats for some time.
This hope now looks forlorn with the sudden emergence of the respiratory disease Covid-19, which has rapidly acquired most of the characteristic of a Disease X. It is caused by a virus for which there is no vaccine or treatment and has already spread to 25 countries since first appearing in China two months ago. Very soon it may be officially labelled a pandemic, an epidemic gone…
This News From Feed news.google title “Coronavirus: the huge unknowns | World news – The Guardian”
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