Researchers at John Hopkins University proved in a simulation that a new pathogen could easily kill almost 900 million people. The team simulated the emergence of a type of parainfluenza they call Clade X.
In the simulation, the researchers added data like the severity of the pathogen and factors like the response from the government. The scenario was built to be very realistic, including American politicians’ reaction and even a doomsday cult, which would release this engineered virus.
The scenario ended in May, and it showed that after 20 months of the emergence of the supposed outbreak, there was no vaccine and 150 million people were already dead.
Eric Toner (Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health Security) said that the SARS outbreak wasn’t worse than the simulated Clade X. The latter was imagined to act like SARS, said Toner:
“I think we learned that even very knowledgeable, experienced, devoted senior public officials who have lived through many crises still have trouble dealing with something like this.”
He explained that this disease could kill more than 10% of the global population (900 million people) if a vaccine fails to be developed:
“And it’s not because they are not good or smart or dedicated, it’s because we don’t have the systems we need to enable the kind of response we’d want to see.”
We’re Not Prepared For Biological Threats
Until now, the Center for Health Security has made two major simulations like Clade X.
The first one was done in June 2001, under the name of the Dark Winter scenario. It involved an outbreak of smallpox released in a terrorist attack at shopping malls.
The second one was in 2005, named the Atlantic Storm, again featuring a smallpox outbreak. Both scenarios sound a dangerous possibility, but by now governments from the entire world has smallpox vaccines.
However, naturally occurring or created pandemics could be a lot more dangerous – just like Clade X.
Toner explains that the bioengineered virus wouldn’t be different from natural pathogens. In a recent statement, Bill Gates warned that people are not prepared to fight against a biological threat because the “sense of urgency is lacking,” adding that the “world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.