Airborne viruses could cause deadly global pandemic, say researchers

From The Telegraph 

Rob Crilly, new york
14 MAY 2018 • 12:09PM
They may not yet know its name but the next pathogen to cause a deadly global pandemic will most likely be a respiratory disease, spread by a virus that is contagious during incubation or when symptoms are only mild, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Security.

They developed the outline as part of a framework to help scientists and policy makers prepare for the next emerging, catastrophic threat.

Their report, The Characteristics of Pandemic Pathogens, concludes that the culprit is less likely to be one of  the headline-grabbing diseases that currently cause frightening outbreaks such as Ebola, carried in bodily fluids, or Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes.

“There is a strong consensus that RNA viruses represent a higher pandemic threat than DNA viruses,” they write.

The mode of transmission for such a disease, the team concluded, would most likely be respiratory, a considerably more difficult route to interrupt than those that are transmitted in blood, for example.

It is also likely to be contagious during the incubation period, before symptoms emerge or when the effects are mild and before medical help is needed.

In addition, the absence of a widely available treatment of vaccine and a susceptible population, would all help it gain traction.

Of particular concern are certain classes of RNA virus, including coronaviruses. These are responsible for a significant proportion of cases of the common cold. They are also the cause of Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed more than 700 people around the world during an outbreak in 2002, and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), which has a fatality rate of almost a third since being identified in 2012.

To guard against the threat, more needs to be done to improve the surveillance of respiratory-borne RNA viruses.

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