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Disease X- When the deadly plague comes
The World Health Organization lists "Disease X" as the "epidemic of the future". It is called Disease X because it does not yet exist, but it could develop as a new disease - for example, as a mutation of existing flu viruses. The infectious disease can become dangerous if there are no treatment options.
Danger from new diseases?
In the past, new or previously unknown pathogens killed hundreds of millions of people. Influenza viruses are among the plagues that are changing fastest, and science is constantly competing to adapt the vaccines to the mutations. Modified flu viruses are among the diseases that killed most people worldwide.
The Spanish flu
A mutated flu virus, the "Spanish flu", cost around 25 to 50 million lives between 1918 and 1920. Their rapid course and bloody pneumonia and the extremely high death rate were typical, so that doctors first thought of a new form of the plague. It wasn't until 1933 that it turned out to be flu.
The most dangerous are infectious diseases against which there are no means to combat them - or at least insufficient ones. Some horrors of the past have been eradicated by vaccines like smallpox. Or they were brought under control by vaccinations like rabies. Marburg virus, Lassa fever or Zika virus, on the other hand, are among the epidemics against which medicine is almost powerless to this day. WHO sees “Disease X” as a potentially great danger in the event of a possible outbreak.
Scientists are also discussing new forms of avian influenza as a possible disease X. The current form affects animals and not humans. But this is not the all-clear, because most of the deadly epidemics in human history have arisen from mutated pathogens of animal diseases that have adapted to humans.
Other candidates for disease X are previously unknown pathogens that can be transmitted from animals to humans, but which humans have not yet come into contact with. This could be bacteria, viruses or fungi lurking in the Arctic, the deep sea or in the rainforest. One such type is the Ebola virus.
What is the meaning of the fictitious "Disease X"?
If a previously unknown pathogen spreads, it has the advantage of time even in modern medicine. It can trigger an epidemic before science even knows what it is. He is always a few steps ahead of his enemies - medicine. Designing possible scenarios for future pandemics should prevent this. If an infrastructure for research and intervention already exists, it can be diagnosed more quickly in an emergency, vaccines can be produced quickly and medicines provided - that is the hope.
Danger detected - banned if possible
Today, when a new disease appears, researchers are the first to estimate how dangerous it will be. Security levels BL 1 to BL 4 are used for this. BL 4 is the highest alarm level - for example with Ebola. Then the proteins are examined. These can be used to identify which group of diseases the pathogen belongs to - and then they can develop antidotes.
A new infectious disease every year
In Germany, scientists discover an previously unknown infectious disease on average. Above all, this has to do with the constantly improving diagnostics.
Why can diseases spread quickly today?
One reason why diseases can spread quickly today is the growth of the world's population and the rural exodus. In a century, the number of people who are now getting closer and closer quadrupled. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, gigantic slums emerge, often without sewer systems - a paradise for pathogens. Slaughterhouses also spread epidemics that spread to humans.
There are no more white spots
The plague agent has lived among rodents in the steppes of Central Asia since ancient times. However, he did not cause any epidemics among the small groups of the steppe nomads. However, when he attacked the rats in the densely populated cities, the plague killed millions. Today people reach the most distant corners of the earth and come into contact with pathogens that affect animals and plants. In Africa, monkey pox only appeared where people cleared the forest.
Globalization means that people from all over the world are active all over the world and with them the flow of goods. Viruses, bacteria and fungi always travel as blind passengers.
No danger thanks to modern medicine?
As wrong as scaremongering is, it is also wrong to weigh yourself safely because modern medicine fights viruses and bacteria far better than medicine in the Middle Ages. Microbes can exterminate entire colonies, and not just medical stumps. Mayan medicine, Inca or Aztec medicine was well developed - but powerless against the unknown and unknown pathogens introduced from Europe. 90 percent of Native Americans died from European epidemics - one of the greatest disasters in the history of Homo Sapiens. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)