What is Disease X?

Forget about preparing for zombie outbreaks. We should all be preparing for Disease X instead. Each year the WHO meets to create a list of diseases that pose a serious international public health risk “because of their epidemic potential and for which there are no, or insufficient, countermeasures.”

Many of the diseases listed are routine players, such at Ebola, Lassa Fever, SARS, and Zika. But this year, the WHO added “Disease X.” According to the WHO, “Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease…”

John-Arne Rottingen, a scientific adviser to the WHO committee says:

“Disease X could be be sparked by a zoonotic disease – one that jumps from animals to humans – and then spreads to become an epidemic or pandemic in the same way H1N1 Swine flu virus did in 2009…As the ecosystem and human habitats change there is always the risk of disease jumping from animals to humans. It’s a natural process and it is vital that we are aware and prepare. It is probably the greatest risk.”

So what does the WHO recommend? Sure, worrying helplessly might seem fun, but they suggest better diagnostics, existing drugs & vaccine improvements, and more research.They do not explicitly suggest a zombie preparedness kit, but you could certainly use your imagination for what Disease X may turn out to be, and plan accordingly.

CDC Downsizing Work in 39 Countries

The CDC is preparing to downsize its work in 39 countries starting in 2019. Much of the funding for the CDC’s work that helps developing countries detect and respond to outbreaks comes from a five year emergency package that Congress approved as a response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The money is set to run out in 2019, and there are currently no plans to replace the funding. If you’re thinking this sounds like the start of any number of scary outbreak movies you’d be right. According to the Atlantic:

“These changes would make the world—and the United States—more vulnerable to a pandemic. “We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” says Tom Frieden, a former CDC director who now heads an initiative called Resolve to Save Lives. “The surveillance systems will die, so we won’t know if something happens. The lab networks won’t be built, so if something happens, we won’t know what it is. We can’t be safe if the world isn’t safe. You can’t pull up the drawbridge and expect viruses not to travel.”

The CDC will narrow its focus to 10 “priority countries.” They are India, Thailand, Vietnam, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Guatemala. Countries where the CDC is scaling back “include some of the world’s hot spots for emerging infectious disease, such as China, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda and Congo.” According the The Washington Post:

“The risks of deadly and costly pandemic threats are higher than ever, especially in low- and middle-income countries with the weakest public health systems, experts say. A rapid response by a country can mean the difference between an isolated outbreak and a global catastrophe. In less than 36 hours, infectious disease and pathogens can travel from a remote village to major cities on any continent to become a global crisis.”

Let that thought fester in your head as you work on your bunker.

Bill Gates Thinks We Are All Going to Die from Disease

Ok, not all of us. Just a lot of us. Yes, I know it seems like we’re in the middle of a Sim City game where someone has decided it would be fun to unleash multiple hurricanes (not actually a Sim City disaster feature), fires, and floods all at once, but in the spirit of doom, we should also talk about the next pandemic.

According to this article “one of the biggest threats out there is one of the oldest: infectious disease, which can emerge naturally or be human-made, as in a case of bioterrorism.”

Gates has repeatedly stated that he sees a pandemic as the greatest immediate threat to humanity on the planet.

“Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year,” Gates wrote in an op-ed for Business Insider earlier this year. “And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years.”

Another point to let fester in your mind:

“We are coming up on the centenary of the 1918 influenza pandemic,” he told Business Insider. “We’ve been fortunately spared anything on that scale for the past 100 years, but it is inevitable that a pandemic strain of equal virulence will emerge.”

Let’s just be grateful we haven’t had to deal with these robot monsters yet. All in good time.

 

Is anything safe to eat? Spoiler alert: NO

Well, we have a lot to unpack here at PlagueGirl.  First off, food is no longer safe to eat.  This should have been obvious to everyone with the deadly listeria outbreak in cantaloupe and the E.coli outbreaks that have been linked to cookie dough, beef and spinach, just to mention a few.

But if for some reason all of this escaped you and you continued eating your raw cookie dough with your hands blissfully unaware, I am here to inform you it appears nothing is safe to eat anymore. (On a personal note, none of this has stopped me from eating anything, ever, but I like to live dangerously as PlagueGirl.)

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Recently, seemingly innocent bags of frozen berries have been linked to an outbreak of Hepatitis A.  At this point, some people expect their meat to have mad cow or E.coli or some sort of contamination, but their healthy bags of frozen berries?!  (On another personal note, I recently invested in a blender and have been making tons of delicious smoothies.  But like I said, I live dangerously.)  Click here for more info on Hepatitis A.

Next on our list of contaminated foods is CHEESE.  CHEESE! Cheese is both delicious and no stranger to contamination.  A recent outbreak of listeria has been linked to cheese sold at Whole Foods stores.  So far, it has been associated with the death of one person and the possible miscarriage of a pregnant woman.  Click here for more info on Listeria.

Upcoming on PlagueGirl: Coronavirus, Valley Fever, and whatever the next food-borne illness may be!

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