New ‘Disease X’ discovered: Is this a potential candidate for 2021 pandemic?

Jean Jacques Muyembe Tamfum says that there might be more fatal viruses emerging from the tropical rainforests in Africa. 'Disease X' might become a potential threat in 2021.

A new disease, dubbed ‘Disease X’, has been discovered and could potentially be the new pandemic for 2021. The disease was found in a woman from Ingende, Democratic Republic of Congo, who has been showing symptoms of hemorrhagic fever and yet had tested negative for Ebola. 

Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, the doctor who had discovered the Ebola back in 1976, and leads the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) in Kinshasa, said that there are new and more fatal viruses emerging from the tropical rainforests of Africa. “We are now in a world where new pathogens will come out. And that is what constitutes a threat for humanity”, Muyembe told CNN, also pointing out that the new viruses could be deadlier than COVID-19. The institute led by Muyembe also happens to be backed by the WHO and US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The early detection of new diseases takes place in these labs.

The woman affected by the new ‘Disease X’ went through many tests for different diseases, including Ebola, and had come out negative for all of them. Health experts and scientists fear that the woman might be patient zero of ‘Disease X’.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ‘Disease X’, where ‘X’ stands for the unexpected, is hypothetical for now. The ‘Disease X’ has some similar features as that of COVID-19 and Ebola. The mortality rate of the unidentified disease is 50 to 90 percent similar to Ebola and could be as contagious as COVID-19. 

The dangers of zoonotic viruses, the ones that spread from animals to humans, have been a concern for health experts, even before the outbreak of the COVID-19. Wildlife experts and climate change activities have warned and raised much concern about the natural habitat of many animals being destroyed due to deforestation resulting in these species coming in more contact with humans. 

“If a pathogen emerged from Africa it will take time to spread all over the world. So, if this virus is detected early — like in my institution where — there will be an opportunity for Europe [and the rest of the world] to develop new strategies to fight these new pathogens,” Muyembe told CNN.

According to the news site, the woman who showed similar symptoms like that of Ebola has since recovered. “Ebola was unknown. Covid was unknown. We have to be afraid of new diseases,” Dadin Bonkole, who is treating the hypothetical patient zero of ‘Disease X’, said.

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