A DEADLY plague that scientists have dubbed Disease X could kill millions of HEALTHY people if it mimics past pandemics, experts warn.
The fatal illness will be the next widespread killer to wipe out populations across the globe – although it doesn’t exist yet.
Getty – Contributor The deadly Disease X could spawn from a mutated influenza strain
Credit: Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo As many as 100million people died worldwide as a result of the devastating Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918
Scientists are working desperately to predict when and how a super-strength strain will come about in order to prepare against it.
And there are fears that if the disease evolves from a mutated form of influenza then healthy people could be MOST at risk.
This was the case in the devastating Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 – when younger, fitter people made up most of the staggering death toll.
The virus wiped out as much as five per cent of the world’s population – making it one of the worst disasters in human history.
MORE DEATHS THAN WW1
As many as 100million people died from the Spanish Flu – more than two-and-a-half times the total number of military and civilian deaths from the First World War.
Studies have show most of the fatalities were among those under the age of 65.
The virus is thought to have used the body’s own immune system to work against it.
This caused fatal “cytokine storms” in victims – an overproduction of immune cells that can overwhelm the body.
The stronger the immune system, the more devastating the effects of the Spanish Flu on an infected person.
TARGETS THE HEALTHY
If Disease X spawns from an influenza strain it could have a similarly devastating effect on younger populations.
Worryingly, influenza is easily spread through the air, can mutate quickly and some strains can pass between species – like bird flu.
Dr Jonathan Quick, chair of the Global Health Council, told Raconteur that people-to-people contact makes an outbreak more dangerous.
He said: “Our greatest fear is being blindsided by a new virus, most likely due to animal-human spillover, which then readily spreads from human to human, has at least a 5 to 10 per cent fatality rate, does not respond to existing medicines, and for which an effective vaccine and accurate diagnostic test cannot rapidly be developed.”
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned last year that conditions are perfect for the emergence of Disease X.
In a statement, the Geneva-based organisation said: “Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.”
WHO science adviser John-Arne Rottingen said: “History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before.
“The point is to make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests.”
Hulton A public health worker carries a pump filled with an anti-flu spray
Hulton Archive – Getty An estimated five per cent of the world’s population was wiped out the the Spanish Flu epidemic
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