The Ebola outbreak that devastated countries in West Africa made headlines over the past year because of fears that it is highly fatal, contagious and there is no available cure. While scientists have eventually developed vaccines for this hemorrhagic virus, Ebola is not the only pathogen that poses big threat to humanity.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has come up with a list of diseases that similarly pose threats to the public in the future. The objective in identifying these diseases is to focus research on them before another fatal outbreak occurs.
"As well as advocating for the initiation or enhancement of the R&D process to develop diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for the five to ten diseases, the Blueprint will also consider behavioral interventions, and filling critical gaps in scientific knowledge to allow the design of better disease control measures," WHO said in a statement.
Earlier this month, about two dozen scientists and health experts met in Geneva, Switzerland to choose the diseases that will most likely cause outbreaks and which have limited or no existing medical countermeasures.
Besides Ebola, the diseases that made it to this list of most dangerous emerging pathogens are as follows:
Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF)
The CCHF virus, which causes viral hemorrhagic fever outbreaks, is primarily transmitted to people from livestock animals and ticks. Human-to-human transmission may occur through close contact with bodily fluids of infected people. Fatality rate during an outbreak is up to 40 percent.
Fatality rate in Marburg hemorrhagic fever outbreaks ranges between 24 percent and 88 percent. The virus is transmitted from fruit bats to humans with infections often linked to prolonged exposure to caves inhabited by Rousettus bats. Human-to-human transmission occurs from close contact through bodily fluids of infected persons and with direct contact with the remains of deceased patients.
It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose Lassa fever. The condition becomes symptomatic in only 20 percent of those infected. Symptoms range from slight fever to hemorrhage, encephalitis and shock. Many patients become deaf or lose some of their hearing because of complications. The disease is primarily contracted when people come into contact with wastes of infected rats or the body fluids of those infected.
MERS And SARS Coronavirus Diseases
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are members of the coronavirus family, viruses that typically cause respiratory illness. MERS has had its share of media coverage this year following an outbreak in South Korea. Figures from WHO reveal that 36 percent of reported MERS patients die.
Nipah And Rift Valley Fever
Nipah and Rift Valley fever are caused by viruses from animals. Nipah is known to cause convulsion, brain inflammation and even personality changes. Rift Valley fever has symptoms similar to meningitis and about eight percent of those infected suffer from ocular disease, brain inflammation and may eventually die.
The researchers also came up with a second tier of the diseases they considered as serious. These include chikungunya, severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, and Zika.
Other diseases that have epidemic potential such as Tuberculosis, Dengue, Malaria, Avian influenza and HIV/ AIDS were not included since they already have major disease control and research networks.