How Real Is Disease X?

We’ve been hearing rumors about a deadly pandemic coming called Disease X, but health officials still have no idea what exactly it could be. It is being named “Disease X” because the “X” represents the unexpected nature of the pandemic.

The only thing that researchers believe right now is that this pandemic is likely to be respiratory, which aren’t difficult to diagnose once symptoms have begun to surface.

While pandemics such as Zika and Ebola are a serious and deadly  threat to the public, they are not as big of a threat as pathogens that are spread through the air that we breathe. These pathogens could create a global catastrophic biological risk (GCBR).

The most worrisome part of Disease X is that there are not enough facts surrounding this future pandemic and what exactly it may look like. RNA viruses are the most dangerous GCBR pathogens because the symptoms can be so subtle that someone might not even know they are ill until they have passed the virus on to others.

Since the strain of the virus is currently  unknown, scientists can create customizable recipes for creating vaccines. Then, once an outbreak happens, they can alter the sequence of the vaccine to attack the virus.

Disease X appeared at the end of a long list of diseases that we could potentially be seeing over the next several years. Some of these diseases include:

  • Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever: This is caused by an infection from a tick-borne virus. The symptoms include: headache, fever, back pain, joint pain, stomach pain, and vomiting.
  • Lassa Fever: A disease that is acquired from infected rats. It is an acute and often fatal disease, which usually occurs in West Africa.
  • Nipah Virus: This disease is mostly transmitted through infected bats, pigs, or from other people infected with NiV.
  • Rift Valley Fever: This is mostly seen in domesticated animals, but does have the ability to infect humans. Symptoms include: flu-like fever, muscle pain, joint pain, and headache.
  • Zika Virus: A disease that is spread by mosquitoes. Often causes none to  mild symptoms that may consist of a mild fever, skin rash, and conjunctivitis.

No one is really sure what could happen with Disease X, but that’s the point of its mysterious moniker. There is a large chance that the next epidemic could come from a completely unexpected source.

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