New Delhi: Disease X is leading to anxiety with the general public believing that it is a new ailment. It is just an imaginary or hypothetical illness,” top scientists and experts have clarified following widespread circulation of reports about the illness on social media.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has dubbed the new pandemic as ‘Disease X’. However, it caused the general public to mistakenly perceive it as a new post-COVID-19 disease.
Dr Anurag Agrawal, Dean, BioSciences and Health Research, Ashoka University, clarified that Disease X is “an imaginary scenario” of a new pathogen causing a new pandemic that is more severe than previous ones. “There is no such pathogen immediately and the exercise is for conceptualising a suitable action plan against future threats,” he told News18.
Dr NK Arora drew a comparison between Disease X and an intruder or thief that an average individual imagines infiltrating their residence, leading them to install security cameras and prepare potential weapons. Arora, head of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) — an apex panel that takes critical decisions on the use and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in India told News18: “That thief may never enter your house but in preparation, you install CCTV cameras, lock the house, buy a dog, and keep arms ready and much more. Disease X is similar to that imaginary thief which may not come in our lifetime, but preparations are required right now. The community of scientists is getting ready, imagining that potential intruder.”
What triggered concern among people was the cautionary statement from a UK-based expert.
“The next pandemic could take 50 million lives,” said Dame Kate Bingham, who chaired the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, adding that it might already be on its way and that Covid-19 was not that lethal.
Bingham said Disease X could be “20 times deadlier than Coronavirus”. Speaking to Daily Mail, she said: “The world will have to prepare for mass vaccination drives and deliver the doses in record time… Imagine Disease X is as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola (67 per cent). Somewhere in the world, it’s replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick.”
The country’s top epidemiologist, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, told News18 that there is a need to tone down the panic or stress related to Disease X, adding that the need to be aware of hypothetical pathogens is much more than ever. “The risk of transmission from zoonotic diseases is increasing dramatically due to climate change. Forests are being affected due to which the transmission from animals to humans will increase,” he said, explaining that bats are known as reservoirs for about 40 viruses of which only six are known so far, including coronavirus.