The World Health Organization Wants You To Worry About "Disease X" [undispatch.com]
Every year, the World Health Organization commissions an expert committee identify the most threatening infectious diseases of the upcoming year. The idea is to prioritize research and development on diseases and pathogens that pose a major risk to global health, but lack effective treatments or vaccines.
The committee met early in February this year, and the prioritized list of diseases [who.int] has been released. The list is made up of familiar threats, including Ebola, Zika, Lassa Fever and a respiratory illness in the Middle East known as MERS. And then there's "Disease X." It is the last on the list, and most mysterious.
What is Disease X? Disease X is quite literally a mystery disease. It's a recognition that we can't see everything coming. In 2018, it's entirely possible that we'll see a brand-new pathogen. Or, as with Zika, an old disease will suddenly demonstrate a new way to harm us.
Disease X is a placeholder for disaster we can't imagine yet.
From the WHO list of Blueprint priority diseases:
Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease, and so the R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown "Disease X" as far as possible.
Also at The Telegraph [telegraph.co.uk].