To highlight the danger and prioritize research, the World Health Organization (WHO) each year instructs a committee of experts to update its list of the most threatening infectious diseases that lack effective treatments or vaccines.
The current list includes Covid-19, since the whole world is now focused on that virus. “What should act as a wake-up call to seriously fund surveillance, research and treatment of the wide variety of possible pandemic agents is the entity at the bottom of the short list: the ‘disease X‘”Warned the doctor Kenneth V. Iserson, Professor of Emergency Medicine, Director of the Arizona Bioethics Program at the University of Arizona School of Medicine.
Since 2015, WHO has used this designation for a illness that could cause a pandemic due to a currently unknown pathogen. Last year’s “disease X” now has a name: Covid-19. However, the next unknown and nameless entity may already be lurking.
“After the SARS pandemic, for example, the WHO detailed the steps needed to control a pandemic. These vital steps were ignored during the initial period of the Covid-19 pandemic. WHO suffers from a chronic underfunding, has to endure a bloated, slow and uncoordinated bureaucracy that has to answer to 194 countries, “said Dr. Kenneth V. Iserson.
“He’s been condemned so much for overreacting (pandemic H1N1 2009) as well as for reacting seriously (epidemic of Ebola 2014 and the Covid-19 pandemic) and for not acting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are chronically underfunded and have no political power. Academics are voices in the desert whose advice is generally sought too late in the process to have much effect, ”he added.
“As the threat of Covid-19 subsides, politicians will make big promises to implement plans to stop, or at least prepare for the next pandemic. The recovering economy will be too weak at first to support the effort, although more funds will be promised in the future, “he explained.
“Ultimately, they will make changes that are politically expedient and will not authorize the changes necessary to produce faster and more flexible responses. Memories of distress and social disruption during Covid-19 will fade. Our bulwarks against pandemic diseases will continue to be funded insufficient and will be inadequate for the task. it is clear that there are multiple ‘diseases X’ in our future; we have to be prepared ”, he concluded.