September 30, 2020

Was it already known that there would be a pandemic?

Peter Daszak is an expert in disease ecology, a branch of ecology that discusses the mechanisms, patterns, and effects of virus-host interaction. In early 2018, Daszak, together with a group of experts gathered in Geneva at the WHO, coined the term Disease X, referring to the next pandemic, which would be caused by a new unknown pathogen, one that, in Daszak’s words , “Had not yet entered the human population.”

According to experts, part of the WHO group Blueprinti R&D (a global strategy that allows rapid response in emergencies), Disease X would likely result from an animal-originated virus and arise somewhere on the planet where economic development it constantly con fl icts the relationship between humans and wildlife. As if that were not enough, they also pointed out that initially this disease would be confused with other diseases at the beginning of the outbreak and would spread quickly and silently. Daszak’s team talked about how air travel, commerce and other activities would favor the journey of the disease to different corners of the planet… making it difficult to contain it. There was also talk of a higher death rate than the flu.

So far, point by point, a scenario is described that is very similar to the one being produced by COVID-19 and completely removed from conspiracy theories that speak of commercial and economic interests to launch a virus of this caliber. In fact, if it were a conspiracy, launching a virus would be an unsuitable strategy since its control is impossible once it is launched. Its repercussions cannot even be foreseen.

What we can anticipate is that it will not be the last, rather we are entering a new era. Daszak already 2 years ago argued that it is not enough to develop vaccines and drugs for known agents when the next great potential is a different pathogen. Blueprint experts need a radical change in the way tests, vaccines, and drugs are designed to act on entire groups of pathogens, rather than affecting only individual pathogens that are already known. As an expert in disease ecology, the Blueprint team points out that it is possible to detect the environments in which new viruses can emerge and follow their “migration”, detect critical points and thus be able to react in time and with solid and scientific responses . The key points of this previous analysis would be farmers, rural communities, forest guards, nomadic populations and anyone who has constant contact with wildlife. Live animal markets and the study of clandestine networks of trade in protected or rare species would also provide important information to detect an outbreak. Social networks, in this context, are also a very useful means of detecting any seed of an epidemic. Comments on fevers, diseases, sick leave and the use of Big Data allow us to point out, in a matter of hours, where there may be a focus. Daszak compares pandemics to terrorist attacks, since we know that we are dealing with living with them, we know their origin and which agent causes them, but we still cannot prevent them from happening. Therefore, the strategy to adopt when dealing with this threat (because it is) has a very similar orientation. Intelligence and prevention tasks (research and development in scientific terms) must be carried out and all possible sources from which these threats may arise must be broken.


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