Hidden plague: Disease X predicted to kill millions of HEALTHY people

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The future killer disease represents the threat of the next giant epidemic to sweep the globe.

And the last time this happened with the Spanish Flu in 1918 it was healthy, younger people who fell victim.

The killer virus wiped-out a staggering 5% of the world’s population, making it one of the worst disasters in human history.

More people were killed from the outbreak — 50 million — than from the entirety of WWI — 40 million.

Global Epidemic

GLOBAL OUTBREAK: Diseases can spread fast in the modern age (Pic: DS /GETTY)

“Our greatest fear is being blindsided by a new virus, most likely due to animal-human spillover, which then readily spreads from human to human, has at least a 5 to 10 per cent fatality rate, does not respond to existing medicines, and for which an effect”

Dr Jonathan Quick

And contrary to most flu strains it was the younger generation who had the higher mortality.

The study ‘Pandemic versus epidemic influenza mortality: a pattern of changing age distribution’ noted the most deaths occurred in under 65s.

Tragically, it is believed the virus made the body’s own immune system work against it when it triggered killer “cytokine storms” in its victims.

The stronger the immune system, it is thought, the more devastating the result.

Another theory is that older people had been exposed to more flu mutations over their lifetime, and the Spanish Flu was genetically similar enough to these strains for older people to have some protection.

Spanish Flu quarantine

EMERGENCY: The sick were quarantined in warehouse in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic (Pic: GETTY)

If influenza is the next Disease X, Spanish Flu sets a terrifying precedent.

Influenza is of the most easily-spread viruses, mutates rapidly and some strains are transmitted between humans and animals, which can make outbreaks unpredictable.

Chillingly, avian influenza A(H7N9) virus kills more than 1 in 3 of the people it infects.

In its risk assessment in February 2015, one year after the virus was first detected, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded 571 lab-confirmed cases, with 212 cases resulting in death.

Caged chickens China

CHICKEN FEARS: A strain of avian flu had a 37% fatality rate in humans (Pic: GETTY STOCK)

This is a death rate of 37% — even higher than the Spanish Flu’s devastating 20%.

For now, it does not transmit well through humans.

Dr Jonathan Quick, chair of the Global Health Council, told Raconteur that people-to-people contact makes an outbreak more dangerous.

He said: “Our greatest fear is being blindsided by a new virus, most likely due to animal-human spillover, which then readily spreads from human to human, has at least a 5 to 10 per cent fatality rate, does not respond to existing medicines, and for which an effective vaccine and accurate diagnostic test cannot rapidly be developed.”

 

Flu Virus

PERSISTENT: The flu virus is constantly evolving (Pic: GETTY)

WHO has stressed it is important to prepare as much as possible and research faster ways to make vaccines and drugs to combat new threats.

Since last year, Disease X is now included in WHO’s list of Priority Pathogens (infectious diseases) which we urgently need more countermeasures for.

The Spanish Flu was only stopped because it killed too many of its hosts too quickly to continue to spread.

Hopefully, humans will control Disease X much better.

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