WHO warns of ‘another pandemic’ with humans sleepwalking into Disease X

Coronavirus "will not be the last pandemic" that ravages humankind, the World Health Organization's Director General has warned.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations agency responsible for international public health, officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11 this year – when around 115,000 people in 14 countries worldwide had tested positive for the virus and around 4,200 patients had died.

It has since sparked global devastation, with countries across the world battling the disease.

Many have enforced crippling lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus causing huge changes to daily life.

And now experts are warning further pandemics could be on the way, days after another scientist warned they will likely be "more apocalyptic" than coronavirus.

Marking the first International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also criticised the "dangerously short-sighted" cycle of throwing money at outbreaks and then forgetting all about them.

"The pandemic has highlighted the intimate links between the health of humans, animals and planet which we can only address with a one health approach.

"Any efforts to improve human health are doomed unless they address the critical interface between humans and animals, and the existential threat of climate change that's making our Earth less habitable.

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"History tells us that this will not be the last pandemic, and epidemics are a fact of life. But, with investments in public health, supported by an all of government, all of society, one health approach we can ensure our children and their children inherit a safer, more resilient and more sustainable world."

In February, Dr Ghebreyesus warned: "For too long, the world has operated on a cycle of panic and neglect. We throw money at an outbreak, and when it’s over, we forget about it and do nothing to prevent the next one.

"The world spends billions of dollars preparing for a terrorist attack, but relatively little preparing for the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly and far more damaging economically, politically and socially.

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"This is frankly difficult to understand, and dangerously short-sighted."

It comes after one of the scientists who helped discover the devastating Ebola virus warned a future pandemic will likely be "more apocalyptic" than coronavirus.

Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum has worked on the frontline of identifying new pathogens since 1976, when as a young researcher he took blood samples from victims of the then-unknown disease that killed almost 90% of patients.

Those samples were sent from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to scientists in Belgium and the US, who found a worm-shaped virus in patients' blood that was named after the river Ebola.

Prof Muyembe now runs the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa, capital of the DRC and warns more zoonotic illnesses – where pathogens jump between animals and humans – are on the horizon.

"We are now in a world where new pathogens will come out," he told CNN.

"And that's what constitutes a threat for humanity."

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