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Health officials warn 'Disease X' could cause serious international epidemic — one factor is fueling the threat

After witnessing the societal impact of the coronavirus pandemic, there is fear of another such event occurring in the coming years.

After witnessing the societal impact of the coronavirus pandemic, there is fear of another such event occurring in the coming years.

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In 2017, the World Health Organization added "Disease X" to a list of pathogens that should be studied in the coming years, according to Bloomberg.

It isn't a specific disease but more of a warning that a pathogen is likely to emerge related to changes in climate and way of life that could spark a pandemic.

When the COVID-19 virus began circulating in 2019, this was one example of a "Disease X," and thanks to research from scientists in preparation for such diseases, a vaccine was created in an unprecedentedly quick time.

But another similar disease could be just around the corner.

What's happening?

The Earth is heating up. According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, via The Guardian, it is expected that 2023 will end up being the hottest year ever recorded on the planet.

With rising temperatures fueled by human-caused pollution comes a number of associated extreme weather conditions, including flooding, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires.

Euronews.green has identified seven factors resulting from global heating that could lead to the next worldwide health crisis.

With animals living closer to humans because of habitat destruction from wildfires and deforestation, and with humans encroaching on nature for agriculture, there comes an increased risk of diseases jumping from animals to humans.

Elsewhere, thawing ice at global ice caps is exposing pathogens that have been kept underground for thousands of years, and flooding can lead to contaminated water entering drinking supplies.

Meanwhile, rising temperatures increase the number of areas where disease-carrying mosquitoes and ticks can thrive, thus making it more likely for humans to become infected. Hotter waters also encourage the growth and spread of algal blooms, which can be toxic for animals and humans.

Finally, Euronews.green warned that viruses will adapt to become heat resistant, leading to stronger pathogens that can evade human immune responses. The increased stress placed on the human body from heat waves or displacement because of extreme weather can also lead to weaker body defenses.

Why is this so concerning?

A 2022 study found that 58% of known infectious diseases are made worse by the changing climate. After witnessing the societal impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the Earth and the deaths and long-term illnesses it brought, there is fear of another such event occurring in the coming years. 

What can be done to prevent these diseases?

Funding for scientific research is vital, with the COVID-19 pandemic proving just how quickly solutions can be found for previously understudied or unknown viruses that can have a grave impact on humans.

But since Euronews.green identified a number of climate-related factors that could lead to the spread of disease, reducing planet-warming pollution is perhaps the most important thing that can be done right now.

While this ultimately lands at the doorstep of global governments and international industry, there are individual choices that can help reduce human-caused global heating.

Swapping meat for plant-based alternatives once a week can slow the demand for meat products that lead to deforestation and methane pollution from livestock, for example.

Meanwhile, recycling, utilizing renewable energy sources, and avoiding dirty-fuel-powered cars can help prevent pollution — which then enters the atmosphere and traps heat — from industry, power, and transportation sectors. 

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