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WHO chief warns countries about 'Disease X'; here's all you need to know

Even as the wrath of the Covid-19 pandemic begins to wade, the horrors of the medical emergency still seem fresh in the memories

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses delegates during the first day of the 75th World Health Assembly at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, May 22, 2

BS Web Team New Delhi

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World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned countries across the world about pathogens that can lead to pandemics in the future and urged the nation to be prepared. He said that "the next pandemic will not wait for us. We must be ready." 

Dr Tedros emphasised the need for preparedness, he highlighted this as a generational commitment that requires sustained attention.

According to WHO's website, the areas to prioritise for research and development in emergency contexts. In this, the health agency listed a number of priority diseases that can pose the greatest public health risk due to their potential to turn into epidemics.

The priority diseases list of the WHO

The list included diseases like Covid-19, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus disease and Marburg disease, Lassa fever, MERS-CoV and SARS, Nipah and henipaviral diseases, Rift Valley fever, Zika, and "Disease X".

What is disease X?

While all the other names might sound familiar, the inclusion of "Disease X" is something that needs further explanation. According to the 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”."

This list was first published in 2017 and the order of prioritisation was done in 2018.

Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said “Targeting priority pathogens and virus families for research and development of countermeasures is essential for a fast and effective epidemic and pandemic response. Without significant R&D investments prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would not have been possible to have safe and effective vaccines developed in record time.”

Even as the wrath of the Covid-19 pandemic begins to wade, the horrors of the medical emergency still seem fresh in the memories. While the virus killed thousands and infected millions, it came as a wake-up call for the world. As hospitals and medical staff around the world struggled to get hold of the situation, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the significance of personal as well as public health systems at large.

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First Published: May 25 2023 | 9:58 PM IST

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