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Disease X: Fear of the Unknown

From the everyday uncertainties of choosing what to have for dinner to pondering the mysteries of life and death, our daily lives are riddled with anxieties that add unnecessary stress. But one fear in particular has loomed since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020: the dread of the next major, potentially catastrophic disease. Could it eclipse the unforgettable impact of COVID-19, which has claimed over 7 million lives worldwide? 

This mysterious threat, referred to as “Disease X,” has gripped the world’s imagination. Scientists and researchers across the globe are working tirelessly to prepare for it. Yet, how do you prepare for something when you don’t know what it is or how it infects people? 

Today, we delve into the depths of Disease X, exploring why it strikes fear into humanity’s hearts and unraveling the efforts of the scientific community as they prepare to ready themselves (and the world) for the unknown. 

What Is Disease X? 

Coined in 2017, Disease X is a term that the World Health Organization added to a list of pathogens they deemed a high-priority concern for research. Despite being an unidentified microbe, Disease X is believed by researchers to have the potential to wreak havoc on a scale comparable to notorious diseases from history’s past. 

To highlight the gravity of their concerns, the current list also encompasses other formidable viruses, including: 

  • COVID-19 
  • Ebola virus 
  • Lassa fever 
  • Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever 
  • Zika 

Why Are We Scared of Disease X? 

In addition to the fear of the unknown, Disease X unsettles many for several reasons, including:  

  • Possessing Pandemic Potential
    Only a few years ago, the world was shocked into silence when the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world in a matter of months. The idea that another disease could be just as impactful, if not more so, is extremely concerning.
  • Creating a Lasting Economic Impact
    From job losses and unstable economies to reduced access to essential supplies (e.g., The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020), pandemics can result in long-lasting economic consequences. 
  • Spreading Globally at a Rapid Pace
    Thanks to air travel, we can fly across the world in less than a day. With that advantage comes the potential to spread diseases across national borders at an unprecedented rate, making it more challenging to contain outbreaks. 

How Scientists Are Preparing for Disease X 

Immunologists worked tirelessly on a COVID-19 vaccine, but it still took nearly a year before the first COVID-19 vaccine was authorized. With proactive measures and a $3.5 billion plan, however, the scientific community hopes to have the means to develop a successful immunization within 100 days of Disease X’s initial appearance in the world, should it ever occur. 

There are other ways the scientists and researchers around the world are preparing as well, including: 

  • Establishing a new fund for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. 
  • Creating a WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin. 
  • Updating the International Health Regulations and forming a new worldwide agreement that protects countries from future devastation caused by pandemics. 

Be Part of Proactive Measures to Stop Disease X in Its Tracks 

If you’re passionate about disease prevention and wish to contribute to proactive measures in safeguarding public health, consider a career in medical physiology. Physiologists, immunologists, and specialists in physiological health play vital roles in comprehending, preventing, and addressing health challenges. These professions provide opportunities to impact global health positively.

Initiate a fulfilling career in health defense by exploring the University of Florida’s online graduate programs in medical physiology. Our programs are entirely online, allowing you to balance your education with existing commitments. As a full-time student, you may be able to complete a program in just one year! 

Apply today to embark on your journey toward a career in disease prevention and public health. Your future in safeguarding global well-being starts now.