Future pathogens could be ‘even deadlier’ than COVID, WHO warns


The World Health Organization chief urged countries around the world to prepare for the next pandemic, warning that future health emergencies could be even worse than the COVID-19 pandemic.

The warning from WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus comes weeks after the group officially called it quits COVID global health emergency. During a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, Tedros said COVID is still a threat – but not the only one we may have to face.

“The threat of another variant emerging that causes new bouts of disease and death remains, and the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains,” he said.

According to a WHO tally, more than 6.9 million people have died from COVID worldwide. Tedros noted that the COVID pandemic has shown that “basically everyone on the planet” needs to be better protected.

“We cannot throw this thing overboard,” he said. “If we don’t make the changes that need to be made, who will? And if we don’t do it now, then when? As the next pandemic approaches – and it will – we must be ready to respond decisively, collectively and equitably.”

FILE PHOTO: WHO Director-General Dr.  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends an ACANU briefing in Geneva
Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus


The 194 WHO member states are working on a global pandemic agreement, with negotiations set to continue next year. Tedros said it was an important initiative to make the world a safer place.

“And for increased international cooperation, the Pandemic Agreement — a generational commitment that we will not return to the old cycle of panic and neglect that left our world vulnerable, but move forward with a shared commitment to meet shared threats with a shared response.” ” ” he said.

Since 2009, American scientists have discovered more than 900 new viruses, 60 Minutes reported last year. A potential threat comes from human encroachment on the natural habitats of bats. Experts warn that such encounters could increase the risk of transmission of pathogens from bats to humans and potentially trigger future pandemics.

More than a billion people are at risk from a “battle” between the global economic system and nature, Ryan McNeill, deputy editor for data journalism at Reuters, told CBS News. He is one of the authors of a recent series about hotspots around the world. In West Africa, one in five people live in a high-risk “jump zone,” which Reuters describes as areas most likely to jump viruses from bats to humans. Parts of Southeast Asia are also areas of concern. In South America, deforestation has created more high-risk areas than anywhere else in the world, McNeill said.

“Scientists are afraid of this region, which we don’t know about, and that the next pandemic could break out there,” he said.

WHO is urging research to focus on a handful of specific infectious diseases. The organization notes that these pathogens, including Ebola, Marburg, Lassa fever, Nipah and Zika viruses, pose the greatest public health threat due to their epidemic potential.

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