World is not ready for Disease X and it will be worse than Covid, warns WHO

'Disease X' could wreak havoc on humanity.

World is not ready for Disease X and it will be worse than Covid, warns WHO

A fresh pandemic even deadlier than Covid-19 could be on the horizon and humanity is not remotely prepared to deal with it, WHO’s top doctor has warned.

World Health Organisation boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said ‘Disease X’ could wreak havoc across the globe because people have failed to learn lessons from previous pandemics.

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Dr Tedros said civilisation was ‘unprepared’ for the next pandemic.

‘Exactly six years ago, I said the world was not prepared for a pandemic and expressed my concern at that time that a pandemic could happen any time,’ he told those in attendance.

‘Less than two years later, the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and the world is still not prepared today.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses the opening session of the World Governments Summit in Dubai on February 12, 2024. (Photo by RYAN LIM / AFP) (Photo by RYAN LIM/AFP via Getty Images)
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says humanity is not prepared for the next global pandemic (Picture: Getty)

‘In the aftermath of Covid-19, millions of people are dead with social, economic and political shocks that reverberate to this day.

‘The painful lessons we learned are in danger of being forgotten as attention turns to many other crises confronting our world.

‘But if we fail to learn those lessons, we will pay dearly next time – and there will be a next time. The cycle of panic and neglect is beginning to repeat.’

Disease X is the name given to a hypothetical disease or pathogen than humanity is not equipped to deal with.

(From L) World Health Organization (WHO) chief scientist John Reede, WHO assistant director-general Maria Neira, Chef de Cabinet Catharina Boehme, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO technical lead on Covid-19 Maria Van Kerkhove and WHO assistant director-general Samira Asma, attend a press conference on the World Health Organization's 75th anniversary in Geneva, on April 6, 2023. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
Dr Tedros said the next pandemic is a matter of ‘when, not if’ (Picture: AFP)

No-one can predict where or when the next Disease X will emerge, but its existance ‘is a matter of when, not if,’ Dr Tedros said.

Disease X ‘may be caused by an influenza virus, or a new coronavirus, or it may be caused by a new pathogen we don’t even know about yet’, he added.

‘Covid-19 was a Disease X – a new pathogen causing a new disease.’

‘But there will be another Disease X, or a Disease Y or a Disease Z.’

Covid-19 was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, killing an estimated 7 million people worldwide.

But WHO has previously warned that a hypothetical Disease X could kill up to 20 times more people than coronavirus.

Dr Tedros’ warning comes as a series of potentially deadly outbreaks have been recorded in recent weeks.

Disease X is the name of a hypothetical disease which could wipe out humanity (Picture: Getty)
Disease X is the name of a hypothetical disease which could wipe out humanity (Picture: Getty)

On Monday, doctors in Oregon confirmed the US state’s first human case of bubonic plague in almost 10 years.

The disease is most notorious for two epidemics in England over the past millennium, one of which – known as the Black Death – killed 40% to 60% of the country’s population in the late 1340s.

Another outbreak in the 1660s, named the Great Plague, is thought to have killed around a fifth of the people living in London at the time.

The announcement comes shortly after the first recorded death from recently discovered viral disease Alaskapox.

Alaskapox, a recently discovered viral disease, is a double-stranded DNA virus which is believed to mainly circulate between mammals, occasionally transmitting to humans.

The victim is one of only seven confirmed Alaskapox infections, with the first identified in an adult in 2015 who suffered a rash and swollen lymph nodes.

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