Not many of us want to revisit 2020 and everything that came with it, so scores of scientists are tirelessly working to get ahead of the next potential pandemic.

Since its creation in 2017, Disease X has occasionally made headlines. The word "created" does not imply anything. Even if Disease X isn't a modern, man-made illness that manifests itself and spreads over the globe, it nevertheless has the potential to do so.

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What is Disease X? Should We Worry?

According to the New Scientist website, Disease X is what the World Health Organization refers to as an infection that could spark the next epidemic or a new worldwide pandemic similar to COVID-19. The word may be used to describe an organism that has not yet been given a name but has the potential to cause a pandemic—a pathogen.

According to New Scientist, the first Disease X was COVID-19.

The WHO reports that over 300 experts are still studying and researching over 25 different viral families, along with a list of priority pathogens that require additional in-depth investigation.

Which Viruses are Most Dangerous Right Now?

As of right now, those diseases include COVID-19, Lassa fever, Lassa virus disease, Ebola and Marburg viruses, Nipah and henipaviral infections, Rift Valley fever, Zika, and Disease X. It also includes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

"This list of priority pathogens has become a reference point for the research community on where to focus energies to manage the next threat and is the agreed direction for where we—as a global research community—need to invest energy and funds to develop tests, treatments and vaccines. We thank our donors like the US government, our partners, and the scientists who work with WHO to make this possible."

The coronaviruses are a large group long seen as a prime contender for producing a new pandemic before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to New Scientist and COVID-19 spurred the development of novel vaccine designs that could be quickly repurposed to target Disease X.

The WHO held its World Economic Forum annual meeting for 2024 and continues to warn global leaders about the risks of future pandemics and Disease X.

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