With COVID-19 having turned the world upside down, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now concerned about eight other viruses. Infectious disease experts at the agency are updating their global priority pathogens list to address concerning viruses to keep the world on guard, and is planning to publish it during the first quarter of 2023.
"Targeting priority pathogens and virus families for research and development of countermeasures is essential for a fast and effective epidemic and pandemic response," said executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme Dr. Michael Ryan back in November 2022.
"Without significant R&D investments prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it would not have been possible to have safe and effective vaccines developed in record time."
Although COVID-19 is still the top priority of concern, WHO anticipates to educate the nation on other viruses to keep us prepared. Here are eight viruses to look out for:
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF)
This virus can bring fatal viral hemorrhagic fever and has a fatality rate of up to 40%. It is usually passed on from ticks and livestock animals to humans, and human-to-human transmission is also possible from blood contact, discharge, and more.
Some symptoms of the virus include fever, dizziness, neck pain, headache, and myalgia. The virus is currently found in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia, and there is yet no vaccine.
Ebola and Marburg
Ebola and Marburg are lethal viruses that can result in fever, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting and serious bleeding and bruising. Although the two are quite rare, outbreaks are often occurring in Africa, mostly in animals.
Humans can catch the viruses through direct contact via bodily fluids from an infected person. There is a vaccine for Ebola, called rVSV-ZEBOV, which was approved in the U.S. back in 2019.
The vaccine is currently used on individuals who had direct contact with Ebola patients, not as a protection against the virus. There is also a monoclonal antibody therapy for Ebola that can better patients with Ebola.
Lassa fever is an acute virus caused by common African rats. It is currently found in West Africa regions, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria.
The name Lassa fever derives from a region in Nigeria where the first outbreak occurred. Around 100,000 to 300,000 cases arise every year, with around 5,000 deaths.
The symptoms are relatively mild compared to some other viruses, including slight fever, weakness, and headache. In around 20% of infected individuals, however, the virus gets more sever through the days.
MERS, short for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), is a respiratory virus that was first transmitted to humans from dromedary camels.
It has been detected in areas such as the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Since 2012, 27 countries have reported cases of MERS, causing 858 deaths.
Nipah virus is a zoonotic virus, indicating that it is able to spread from animals to humans. The virus can cause mild to fatal symptoms, even to death. It is often depicted in certain parts of Asia, including Bangladesh and India.
The zoonotic virus can be prevented by staying away from infected pigs and bats in certain areas, and avoiding raw date palm sap which can be contaminated with sick bats.
Rift Valley fever
The virus, commonly found in animals in sub-Saharan Africa, is spreadable through bodily fluid contact, or even though mosquito bites. Human-to-human infection has yet to be exhibited.
It can cause fatal symptoms in animals, but fortunately, has less serious symptoms for humans. Only a small number of infected individuals develop more serious symptoms, such as hemorrhage and encephalitis, which is swelling of the brain.
The virus is mainly spread through Aedes mosquito bites. The virus is usually not lethal, but if it infects a pregnant person, it can cause microcephaly in infants and also result in preterm birth and miscarriage.
Some symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, muscle pain, and headache. There is no vaccine available for the particular virus, yet. Cases of Zika virus has diminished since 2017, but is still present in certain countries of the world.
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- CDC Lassa Fever
- WHO Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
- CDC Nipah Virus (NiV)
- CDC Rift Valley Fever (RVF)
- WHO Zika virus