The WHO has identified nine priority diseases that pose the biggest risk to public health, adding that they were deemed to be most risky due to a lack of treatments or their ability to cause a pandemic.
New Delhi: World Health Organisation chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the world must prepare for a virus that is “even deadlier” than Covid-19. Dr Tedros’ comments come after the WHO earlier this month declared that Covid was no longer a public health emergency of international concern.
“The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains,” Tedros said. “And the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains.”
He warned that nation states “cannot kick it down the road” and that the next global disease was bound to “knock knock”. “If we do not make the changes that must be made, then who will? And if we do not make them now, then when?” he said.
During a meeting of the World Heath Assembly in Geneva, Tedros said covid is still a threat but “not the only one we have to confront.”
More than 6.9 million people globally have died of COVID, according to a WHO tally. Tedros noted that the COVID pandemic showed “basically everyone on the planet” needs to be better protected.
WHO identifies nine priority diseases that pose risk to public health
The WHO has identified nine priority diseases that pose the biggest risk to public health, a report in Daily Mail said, adding that they were deemed to be most risky due to a lack of treatments or their ability to cause a pandemic.
“The world was taken by surprise and found unprepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, the most severe health crisis in a century,” he was quoted as saying by The Mirror.
Covid is on the list, along with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, a disease transmitted by ticks which kills 30 per cent of those it hospitalises. Ebola, which kills around half of those it infects, is another. Marburg, one of the deadliest pathogens ever discovered, with a case-fatality ratio of 88 per cent, is also a threat.
Lassa fever, which is mild or causes no symptoms in 80 per cent of cases, kills around 1 to 3 per cent of those it infects. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are also on the WHO’s pandemic watch-list, the report added.
MERS causes a fever and cough which can develop into pneumonia and breathing difficulties. It was first spotted in the Middle East in 2012 and kills around 35 per cent of those it infects.
SARS, first identified in China in 2003, was the first severe and infectious new disease this century, has a case fatality ratio of three per cent. Nipah virus, first spotted in humans in 1998, causes a flu-like illness which can develop into breathing difficulties. It kills around three-quarters of those with confirmed infections.
The WHO is also concerned about Rift Valley fever, spread by infected animals and usually spotted in sub-Saharan Africa. Zika virus, another pathogen of concern, is mainly spread by mosquitos and is usually mild. Severe cases are rare, but it can cause complications for pregnant woman and babies.
The UN health agency has also warned about ‘Disease X’, reflecting the fact that the next pandemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.
The WHO’s declaration comes just four months after China ended its prolonged zero-Covid policy restrictions and was hit by a big surge in infections.