Recently the media was abuzz with talk of ‘Disease X,’ a mysterious illness that could spread across the world. And then…nothing happened. It turns out that people had misinterpreted the World Health Organization’s List of Blueprint priority diseases, which identifies the world’s most dangerous diseases in terms of potential for outbreaks or epidemics. There are diseases that are already known – like Ebola, MERS or SARS – and then a space for ‘disease x,’ any new disease which could evolve and pose the threat of a pandemic. By identifying them and planning out potential responses, the World Health Organization is able to better respond to disease outbreaks and contain the spread of illness. While it has been over 100 years since the 1918 Influenza epidemic where the H1N1 virus (aka Spanish Flu) devastated the world, new pathogens are constantly emerging – and the possibility of superbugs spreading across our ever-more-connected world makes the W.H.O.’s work vitally important.
Preparing for outbreak: Fighting the world's deadliest diseases