How disease X became an epidemic

In Wuhan, no one dares to go public without a mask, and some Chinese also put on plastic bags and rubber gloves.
Picture: dpa

It was to be expected that an unknown pathogen would spread worldwide. Only in the case of the coronavirus it happens much faster than expected.

Vor almost four years ago, a group of experts gathered at the WHO headquarters in Geneva to create a kind of top ten death threat for the World Health Organization: a list of pathogens against which medicine is currently powerless. In the end, there were eight diseases caused by viruses, including Ebola, the Crimean-Congo fever and the respiratory disease Sars. In February 2018, the experts added disease X to this list, symbolic of a particularly terrifying scenario: that a deadly epidemic is triggered by a pathogen that the world had never known about.

Barely two years later, this is a reality and we are right in the middle of the action. Since the Chinese authorities announced a cluster of unusual pneumonia in the city of Wuhan on December 31, 2019, the pathogen has spread rapidly: More than 67,000 cases have now been reported, more than 1,500 people have died (as of press time on February 15, 2020).



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