Warning that the conditions may be ripe for Disease X, World Health Organization is urging "cross-cutting R&D preparedness" to enable preparations for the outbreak of known diseases to also be relevant for a Disease X scenario, insofar as this is possible.
Each year, the Geneva-based WHO - tasked with monitoring and safeguarding world health - convenes a high-level meeting of senior scientists, listing diseases that risk prompting a major global public health emergency.
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By including this curious illness on its "List of Blueprint priority diseases" alongside eight known illnesses, like MERS and the Marburg Virus, so can we really say that these diseases are unpredictable?
"These diseases pose major public health risks and further research and development is needed, including surveillance and diagnostics", the WHO said in a press release. "It may seem unusual to be adding an "X" but the point is to Fmake sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests". "We want to see "plug and play" platforms developed which will work for any, or a wide number of diseases; systems that will allow us to create countermeasures at speed".
Mr Rottingen explained Disease X could spark an epidemic if it was passed from animals to humans like HIV, which jumped from chimpanzees to humans claiming the lives of 35million people since the 1980s.
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"It's a natural process and it is vital that we are aware and prepare".
"It is probably the greatest risk".
Given the rapid development of gene-editing technologies, Disease X could also spring up from human error or malevolence - in which case, having a flexible, widely-applicable plan of action is of paramount importance. Even fatal, Disease X could be promoted by just an accident or a terror attack.
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The idea behind the fact that the Disease X is included on the list is not meant to frighten individuals, yet to goad public health authorities into ensuring that they are set up for all kinds of dangers, not only the anticipated ones. It's a so-called "known unknown" that the World Health Organization says we need to be prepared for, which is why the mystery malady is now on the agency's R&D Blueprint of priority diseases.