The World Health Organization has added a mysterious disease to its already deadly roster of maladies like Ebola, Zika and SARS.
“Disease X” is not exactly new, as this killer pathogen is a so-called “known unknown” that could be created by biological mutations, like what happened with Spanish Flu or HIV, The New York Post reports. This disease could also be hatched by big events like a terrorist act, or smaller incidences like car accidents.
WHO says of the newest member on the list of nine diseases that may cause a worldwide epidemic,
Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown.
By placing this mystery illness on the “List of Blueprint priority diseases,” alongside conditions such as MERS and the Marburg Virus, WHO acknowledges that infectious diseases can happen anytime, and are highly unpredictable.
This is not to scare people, WHO adds, but to motivate public health authorities around the world to prepare for all kinds of threats, not just those that are predictable. Marion Koopmans, WHO adviser, said, “The intensity of animal and human contact is becoming much greater as the world develops. This makes it more likely new diseases will emerge, but also modern travel and trade make it much more likely they will spread.”
This is the first time that Disease X has made the list, during a convention of experts on viruses, bacteria and infectious diseases. Epidemics can strike anywhere, anytime, like with Zika’s sudden rise throughout South America and the Caribbean a few years ago.
Now, with technology and modern medicine, developing biological weapons has become so much easier. For example, an unknown nerve agent was reportedly used in an assassination attempt on a British spy and his daughter last week. North Korea was also suspected of using nerve agents to kill Kim Jong-un’s half-brother last year.
Man-made biological weapons like viruses and bacteria are much harder for the human body to defeat, since there is no natural immunity to these.