What Happens When 'Disease X' Starts Spreading?


Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) convened in Geneva to discuss potential threats to the health of humanity. As a result of that meeting, 'Disease X' was born and "represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease". 

But what would happen if 'Disease X' started spreading right now? According to an experiment performed by the Sunday Telegraph, this is how the situation would develop:

Day One: Patient 0 spends the day as normal, carrying out every-day activities such as shopping, and eating at a café. Within 8 hours, 9 people are infected.

Day Two: Just 24 hours after patient 0 begins infecting people, 69 people are carrying 'Disease X'. The exponential nature of infection begins to take hold. Little to nothing can be done to stop the spread now.

Day Three: More than 500 people are now infected. The infection begins to make its way out of its town of origin, spreading at an exponential rate towards airports, major cities, and food sources. 

Four Weeks Later: Within a month of starting, the infection has now spread to potentially millions of people. 'Disease X' has crossed borders and can now be found in numerous countries. 

The WHO aims to use these models and predictions to inform policy which could save many lives.

Grahame White