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The Next Pandemic: Prepare for “Disease X”

  • Author(s): Iserson, Kenneth V.
  • et al.
Abstract

The organism that will cause the next pandemic, which WHO labels “Disease X,” probably already exists. The COVID-19 pandemic will, slowly, and with some hiccups and many tragedies, pass into memory. This coronavirus may disappear and later recur, continue endemically under vaccine control, or simply attenuate and vanish. The economy and healthcare systems will return to a new normal, some parts more quickly than others. Like the multiple plagues humanity has endured since our ancestors gathered into cities, it will generate recriminations for slow and misguided responses, profiteering, and over- or under reacting to economic, social, and healthcare events that will, retrospectively, be obvious. The individuals and organizations most culpable for exacerbating the disaster will escape responsibility while they scapegoat others and try to re-write history. Heroes, whether individuals who helped provide clear risk communication and leadership or groups that persevered in the face of fear and life-threatening danger will emerge. Without fanfare, most will return to their normal jobs, scarred but proud of their efforts. As they have before, pundits and scholars will write endlessly about the pandemic’s cause, effects, and ways to ameliorate the next pandemic’s brutal destruction of lives and ways of life. The problem is, we have done all this before and seemed not to have learned the lessons our predecessors taught.

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